Unlike Breath of the Wild, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom hides some Koroks in plain sight and challenges you to reunite them with their friends, often encouraging the player to do so using some Ultrahand ingenuity. Naturally, many players immediately began torturing them instead. With Hyrule technically at war once again, this made me wonder if the treatment of these Koroks represented a violation of the Geneva Conventions, and folks, I believe it does.
There's an argument to be made that these stranded Koroks would qualify as "infirm" non-combatants under the Geneva Conventions, and I'm here to make said argument. They are, after all, immobilized in part due to their advanced age and tiny, weak, cabbage-like bodies. In this case, these Koroks would likely fall under Article 16 on the protection of civilians in the go-to 1949 Geneva Conventions, listed by the International Committee of the Red Cross: "The wounded and sick, as well as the infirm, and expectant mothers, shall be the object of particular protection and respect."
Don't worry Korok, you'll join your friend real soon. #TearsOfTheKingdom #Zelda #NintendoSwitch pic.twitter.com/z1WLfxmjU5May 13, 2023
Article 17 also specifies that: "The Parties to the conflict shall endeavor to conclude local agreements for the removal from besieged or encircled areas, of wounded, sick, infirm, and aged persons." Link is at least trying – or should be trying – to reunite these lost Koroks so they can get out of wartime Hyrule, so I'll give this one a pass provided you actually remove the Koroks with care, and not, let's say, by firing them out of a catapult.
The mention of medical equipment and materials also raises questions around the use and treatment of Link's Ultrahand vehicles in wartime. At least, it does if you've just spent 20 minutes reading the Geneva Conventions after playing Zelda all weekend. I mean, what is an Ultrahand car or aircraft carrying an immobile Korok if not an emergency transport?
Korok execution thread 🧵Starting off with the Korok Firing Squad beta v4#TearsOfTheKingdom #Zelda pic.twitter.com/ucJlLYWHwrMay 14, 2023
Technically speaking, Articles 33, 34, and 35 on "the amelioration of the condition of the wounded and sick" do specify that medical supplies and transports must be used and accommodated appropriately. Link is in the clear here because the building supplies often stashed near Koroks are marked for public use, but Bokoblins and Ganondorf's armies are surely breaking Article 35: "Transports of wounded and sick or of medical equipment shall be respected and protected in the same way as mobile medical units."
It follows, then, that attacking an Ultrahand vehicle currently transporting a Korok would be a violation, assuming that vehicle doesn't also have mounted turrets and flamethrowers. That's right, people. It's not just evil players; the Bokoblins are war criminals too. Remind them of that the next time they besiege you on a cross-country journey to reunite ancient forest fairies.
Watching Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom players try (and fail) to build things is the best part of its launch.