Why one South Korean town is becoming a pilgrimage for Pokemon Go players


The cultural impact that Pokemon Go is having around the world is hard to comprehend, especially when you hear that it's making South Koreans travel towards their northern neighbours.

There's only one major town in South Korea where diehard Pokemon fans are able to take part in the mobile game. That's Sokcho, just 37 miles away from the North Korean border.

The reason why the game only works there is a bit of a complicated story involving the game's developers and South Korean defence. Let me explain.

Niantic Labs, the makers of Pokemon Go, had a game before this one called Ingress which is very similar. It's based on Google Maps and you have to travel to real world locations to play the game.

A major problem with that though is that national security laws in South Korea forbid apps accessing your location data, making what Pokemon Go does impossible.

But when Niantic were mapping the country for Ingress, a small corner of South Korea didn't get blocked off from the game. In fact, it was listed as part of North Korea. And now, that same corner, where Sokcho is located, is becoming a pilgrimage for South Korean Pokemon fans.

The map of South Korea from Ingress, with Sokcho being that small town just above highlighted areas and under the border

Now the town public areas are full of people looking for Pikachu and battling in gyms, so much so that most of Sokcho's public wifi services are under huge pressure.

Sokcho seems to be delighted with the fans though. Bus tickets to the town are selling out and fans are more than happy to spend some money in businesses who have taken Pokemon Go to heart.

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