“A Stranger in Jung-gug”: an RPG of Koreans in China

What I intend to propose for my final assignment is a tabletop RPG taking place around the Chinese-Korean Border during the Korean War. The Korean War was a major event for the two nations because with the formation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), the Korean population were “officially recognized as a minority people, and given their own autonomous area, the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture” (Legerton/Rawson, 43-44). This prefecture is located right on the north-western border of North Korea, around the area of Manchuria.

This project is inspired by an existing RPG based around Chinese minorities, Tibet: The Role Playing Game, which focused obviously on the Chinese invasion of Tibet during the 50’s. I would first like to point out that Jung-gug in the title is actually the Korean word for ‘China.’ Based on the storyline, centering around the player trying to survive the Korean War, this is an appropriate title. I intend to create a basic rulebook, detailing the rules of travel, class, and combat; as well as an example character sheet and introductory mission. I expect my project to dive into the relation between the native Han ethnicity and the Korean population.

Unlike the other minorities in China, Koreans obviously come from a different country, one arguably more advanced than their adoptive country. Koreans have had a long history of immigration into China which goes back to the 1860’s. This immigration peaked during the Japanese occupation of the Korean Peninsula in the early part of the 20th century. Since then, the Koreans have become some of the most highly developed ethnicities in all of China. The capital city of the Yanji reportedly resembles an urban metropolis from South Korea rather than their northern counterpart.

When the game begins, you start out as a citizen from Korea in Manchuria. From then, you basically get to create your own story with missions that advance certain attributes. These include intelligence, strength, engineering skills, and combat skills, to name a few. These skills would become extremely helpful in the player’s journeys around the Yanbain Prefecture, whether it be in peace or war. For player class, the player has a range of choices including engineer, laborer, soldier, and shaman to name a few. Each class has their own merits and demerits. For example, the Shaman can use magic, however the average citizen is less likely to take a shaman seriously and thus make him vulnerable. If you chose to have your character be a female, you get a lesser degree of class choice and would intitally have fewer points to spend on attributes than males.

One difficulting I am expecting is determining the modern situation for Korean-Chinese from their situation in the time period. That is why I have sources that discuss the Korean War, especially those that cover all sides, including the Koreans. However, I am aware to limit the international picture drastically with the Chinese being so “flushed with sucess in the civil war, was out of touch with international politics” (Spurr 5). That said, I would not allow the player to take a political path. I assume a path into politics would not be of interest for the average RPG player.

With this game I intend not only to give an informative view on the Korean culture and the Korean War, but also put you as the player in the perspective of a minority population. Like China on its northernmost borders, Korea is a nation with a long history and cultural heritage. It would be impossible the two cultures not to encounter each other. One does not have to be an history expert to understand that both China and North Korea were both strongly influenced by the Russian Communists after the Second World War, so it would be easy to get why the two countries would be connected strongly.  However, the Korean population is still a minority, as said before. My game should provide a glipse of life of one from a great culture living under the heels of another.

Works citied

Legerton, Colin, and Jacob Rawson. “Immigrants and Emigrants: The Koreans.” Invisible China: A Journey through Ethnic Borderlands. Chicago, IL: Chicago Review, 2009. 43-59. Print.

Spurr, Russell. Enter the Dragon: China’s Undeclared War against the U.S. in Korea, 1950-51. New York: Newmarket, 1988. Print.

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