The South Korean newspaper Korea Times claims in an editorial this week that online gambling sites are "mushrooming" in the region despite the illegal nature of the practice…and it's at least in part due to insufficient official surveillance.
During October 2008, a 30 day crackdown produced more prosecutions than ever before, with the National Police Agency reporting the arrest of 1 681 people for Internet gambling. The figure was six times higher than the 248 apprehended a year before.
The agency said 113 are suspected of operating online gambling sites, while 525 are allegedly illegal cyber-money dealers. It added that 1 058 were caught actually gambling online. Seventy percent of the gamblers were in their 30s and 40s and 89 percent were male, while 731 of them were jobless.
Police have taken action to shut down 729 gambling websites.
Authorities are concerned that gambling is spreading to low-income earners and the unemployed. The police station in North Chungcheong Province arrested four people and booked 36 others for operating an illegal gambling site, which made about 100 billion won ($68 million) in illegal profit over the past year. The operator of the site, identified only by his surname Kim and aged 36 years, had behaved like a successful IT venture businessman and camouflaged his gambling business well. He led a double life by working as a director of five civic organisations, including an environmental group, and donated part of his earnings to charities and a high school from which he had graduated.
Kim and other gambling site operators have falsely reported that their Internet servers were located overseas in a bid to avoid crackdowns by local law enforcement agencies, The Korea Times claims. They have dispatched their employees to China and other countries to operate call centres, exchange cyber money through Internet banking and send spam mails to solicit members. And they have become more sophisticated to outmanoeuver investigators.
The article refers to the recent case of celebrity Kang Byung-kyu, a baseball player-turned TV show host, who lost 400 million won on Internet gambling (see previous InfoPowa report).
The editorial takes a partisan anti-gambling approach, urging the authorities step up their efforts to "root out" online gambling, and launch an awareness campaign to publicise "the destructive nature of Internet gambling."