Video games aren’t the first thing you think of when discussing history. But this video summarizing the last 65 years of South Korean history is oddly appropriate, especially after a series of hilarious, low-fi propaganda computer games (think a rat with the face of George W. Bush) produced by the North Korean government emerged a few weeks ago.
Democracy Demo, a fictional game demo by Seoul animation company Studio Shelter, pares down the history of contemporary Korea into a three-minute MIDI extravaganza, pitting “the people” against South Korea’s first president Syngman Rhee, Park Chung-hee, and (arguably the most hated) Chun Doo-hwan. Its highlights include seeing Park throw the bird at a rioting crowd and Chun taking the form of a giant rat. Mostly, though, we see the people getting shot at, blown apart, and stomped on by state forces–all in poppy pixelated form.
In retrospect, it seems like the little T-shirt-clad hero of the video might represent Park Jong-chul, the student whose torture and death sparked South Koreans to demand democratic elections in 1987. Thankfully, the demo has a happy ending–the video ends with night falling (true to old Atari game form) as the prosperity of the ’90s takes hold. Democracy Demo makes light of a grizzly history, and it throws the plight of neighboring North Korea into sharp relief. South Koreans went through hell to gain the right to make videos like this.
Check out more of Studio Shelter’s videos here.