Pass me one of those officially licensed tissues please.

In case you’ve just dropped onto planet earth and somehow ended up on here surfing a Nintendo website there is very popular phenomenon called a Nintendo DS. In South Korea it’s sold about 2 million console units since 2007, but software piracy has become a rampant problem in the region. South Korean President Lee Myun Bak has been impressed by DS sales enough to ask why domestic manufacturers can’t develop similar hit electronics saying “Can’t we create something like Nintendo’s?”.

But then why trouble with the hardware when the software is so easy to copy? This seems to be the attitude of the mostly Chinese manufacturers who have exported about 1.4 million memory cards used for copying into South Korea alone. The cards closely resemble the Official DS cards themselves and run about 50,000 won a little more than the 20,000 to 40,000 won of the official DS card but each hold about 50 copied games. They are designed to unlock the function that prevents the gamer from using copied software.

One shop manager in Yongsan, Seoul, a well known electronics district says, “DS has gotten devoured by illegal software”. His store only sells about 5 official DS games per month compared with 20 to 50 of the memory cards. His profit margins on the cards are also about 5 times that of the official game cards so there’s little to deter shopkeepers from encouraging sales.

Anticipating crackdowns some retailers even store shipments at other shops and send clerks to pick up the cards as they receive orders.

Nintendo of Korea has asked customs to tighten piracy controls prompting the seizure of 200,000 cards under the countries computer program protection law, but this is something of a tiny bandage to a broken leg.

The problem unresolved reduces profits of genuine software makers and hurts the software development by South Korean companies that President Myun Bak would prefer to support. Surely he’s losing lots of sleep wrestling with this issue.

Nintendo of Korea says illegal copying is reported in Brazil, China, Hong Kong, Mexico and Spain as well.

With the DSi release upon us, and it’s addition of a built in SD slot as well as an official DSiware service will this alter the appeal of illegal downloads? Is it fun to eat mud?