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News Corp publishes North Korean games

Big Lebowski Bowling part of "first Western IT venture" from Kim Jong Il's nation

News Corp subsidiary Fox Mobile published two games made in North Korea, it has been established.

In 2007, programmers at the North Korean government's General Federation of Science and Technology created Java-based mobile titles using the Big Lebowksi and Men in Black licenses, which were then distributed in the West by Nosotek Joint Venture Company.

Nosotek claims to be "the first western IT venture" to originate from Kim Jong Il's iron rule, and is prepared to launder invoices through a Hong Kong or China-based subsidiary, as well as "skills, secrecy, dedication."

Fox Mobile was formerly known as Jamba, which News Corp acquired in 2006 for $188 million. However, the Jamba subsidiary - Ojom GmbH – which nominally published the titles was closed in 2008.

Business deals with North Korea are technically legal under UN rules, unless related in any way to the weapons industry. However, there have been concerns that fuelling the country's IT knowledge and infrastructure might aid its cyberwarfare capabilities.

"Any sort of transaction that gives cash to the North Korean government works against U.S. policy," James Lewis from Washington policy group the Center for Strategic and International Studies told Bloomberg.

"The coding skills people would acquire in outsourcing activities could easily strengthen cyberwar cyber-espionage capabilities. Mobile devices are the new frontier of hacking."

South Korean officials have previously claimed that North Korea has already attempted cyber-attacks on the US, while August saw President Obama increase sanctions against business with the nation.

However, Nosotek co-founder Volker Eloesser dismissed concerns that game development might increase the risk of attacks upon the West. "Who could train them, as neither me nor the Chinese engineers who are cooperating with the Koreans have those skills ourselves? Training them to do games can't bring any harm."

By contrast, Paul Tjia, director of Rotterdam, Netherlands-based GPI Consultancy, told Bloomberg that Western firms outscouring software development to Korea may help the notoriously closed and poor nation to escape its government-imposed isolation.

Fox Mobile's Juliane Walther confirmed that the subsidiary had "extensive partnerships with content producers in all areas, with operators, and with the biggest media companies worldwide, including various Asian companies."

No further confirmation of links to North Korean software development was provided.

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