Gold farming — the practice of generating huge sums of virtual money in online games, which is then sold for cash — is nothing new. But while some countries have laws in place to punish those associated with such operations, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il took another path. He hired a team of hackers to use the shady practice to generate money for his own purposes, and they succeeded to the tune of over $6 million over 2 years.
The government-funded hackers, along with like-minded individuals in South Korea and China, spend countless hours in popular Asian online multiplayer games such as Lineage. After raising large sums of cash, the money is delivered to officials in North Korea's capital, Pyongyang. The New York Times reports that the money may even be used to help fund the country's nuclear efforts.
Some players in massively multiplayer online games like World of Warcraft are intimately familiar with gold farming, and huge operations have been busted several times before, many of which were located in Asia. China saw such a rash of gold farming groups that it had to officially ban the practice in 2009, though it did little to stop the organizers from forcing "workers" to spend long hours making virtual dough.
This story was originally published on August 8, 2011.
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