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[Opinion] Video Gambling

Posted August. 18, 2006 03:00,   


The Sea Story, a game machine made by the Korean company Aonebiz, was first introduced in late 2004. Since then the game machines have dominated adult game rooms. The machine costs 7.0 million won. The company sold over 45,000 machines. When a bill of 10,000 won is inserted, the machine shows various patterns rolling just like a slot machine and stops. When all the patterns match, a player gets gift certificates worth up to 2.5 million won. In the game world, it is called a “reel game.”

Opening an adult game room required a license until 2002. Since 2002, during the Kim Dae-jung administration, the licensing system was replaced by a registration system. The number of adult game rooms gradually rose. In the first year of the Roh Moo-hyun administration, reel games were first introduced. Since reel games are recreational games bordering on gambling and they are addictive, profits of the game rooms soared. That year, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism asked the Korea Media Rating Board, which is in charge of deliberations of game machines not to give permission to reel games, but the Korea Media Rating Board rejected the request. Then director of the ministry was Yoo Jin-ryong who recently resigned since he refused the request by Cheong Wa Dae help certain aides land jobs.

The Sea Story is the most lucrative product for owners of game rooms. The game rooms posted 400 billion won in sales in 2003, and over 1.0 billion won last year. Even in rural areas game rooms were opened. Organized gangs that would not miss cash cow businesses got involved in the business. Some say the police are only going through the motions of cracking down on it.

43 percent of the players of the adult game rooms earn less than 2.0 million won per month. The more profitable the game rooms become, the worse the livelihood of low-income earners get.

The government and the ruling party devised a policy to abolish gift certificates for a giveaway last month. The government that is supposed to help the ordinary people has sat on the sideline or let the problem fester. No wonder there is a growing criticism that it is the government that should be blamed the most. There is a report that the former minister Yoo fell out of favor of the government since he opposed the extension of the permission to the Sea Story. There are also rumors brewing about people related to the Sea Story. I wonder how the game rooms sprang up nationwide. The government should get to the bottom of this problem.

Hong Chan-sik, Editorial Writer, chansik@donga.com