PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds’ publisher apologized this week when players of the mobile version of the game discovered it contained references to Japanese war crimes. As first reported by South Korean outlet Bzit, the problems started on July 15, when a mobile player discovered a mask available in the game was painted with an image similar to the Japanese Rising Sun flag. The World War II-era flag is a symbol of Japanese aggression and Imperialism in Southeast Asia during World War II.
Worse, the same day another player discovered one of PUBGs bots was named Unit 731—a reference to a unit of the Japanese Imperial Army responsible for some of World War II’s most horrific war crimes. The unit carried about human experimentation—including the vivisection of civilians without anesthesia, and the use of flea bombs carrying disease on mainland China—and was tried and convicted of crimes against humanity after the wars end in a Soviet trial in Khabarovsk..
PUBG developer Bluehold pulled both the Rising Sun maks and the reference to Unit 731 before issuing an apology. “We apologise for causing concerns over a pilot mask item,” Bluehold said in a statement in The Korea Times. “We will conduct an overall re-examination of our image production process to prevent such a recurrence. We will enhance procedures to scrutinise game items before their release and hold the person in charge responsible.”
PUBG’s developer Bluehole is based in Korea and the mobile port was created by Chinese company Tencent. The game has a huge following in both countries, where the bulk of Unit 731’s victims lived. Many families in the area still live with the memory of its crimes as well as the devastating physical effects on their communities and land, some of which remains uninhabitable to this day.