Korea: Internet Game = Gambling?

While the Sea Story Scandal, gambling, hit Korea in 2006, the Internet game –Hangame – arises as a problem of virtual gambling at present.

The biggest game portal site, Hangame, is regarded as the myth of the Korean Internet due to the rapid growth.

After a TV contemporary topic program, PD Soocheop (PD Note) introduced problems of Internet games, netizens criticize the strong tendency of Internet games to gambling. They give other examples and arguments near their lives showing how dangerous Internet gambling is.

A netizen asks about the ethics of the Internet game company.

지금 현재 온라인 게임은 황금알을 낳는 거위로 불리며 전체 매출이 8조 3000억 원대를 기록할 것으로 보이는데 이것은 2007년 영화산업 전체매출은 약 3조 5000억의 2.5배에 해당한다. 이제 게임은 대한민국 문화컨텐츠의 대표주자로 떠올랐다. 이렇게 성장한 게임산업이지만, 반면에 게임이라는 특수성 때문에 마약 같은 중독에 빠진 이들이 늘어나고 있다. 지금 빅3으로 불리는 거대한 온라인 게임사이트는 넥슨, NHN, 엔씨소프트로 압축되고 있는데, 기존 엔씨소프트(리니지 서비스)의 독주에 넥슨과 NHN이 어깨를 나란히 하고 있다. NHN은 한게임을 운영하고 있으며, 이중 최고 인기있는 게임은 포커게임이며 예전이나, 지금이나 피씨방에 가보면 여기저기 포커게임을 하는 사람들은 부쩍 볼수 있다. 예전에 바다이야기라는 곳이 단속으로 즐길 공간이 없어진 사용자들이 온라인 포커사이트로 유입이 되었다고 한다. NHN 한게임에는 일명 머니장이라는 것이 존재하며 게임머니를 취득하기 위해, 현찰을 지급하고 게임머니를 산후, 이것을 게임에 즐기는 것이다. 이들은 한게임에서 게임머니는 충전하는 방식으로 월 30만원밖에 충정할 수 없기 때문에 머니상에 현찰을 지급하고 머니상 유저와 게임을 하여 일명 ‘수혈’-즉 돈을 잃어주고 버는 방식으로 돈을 충전하는 것이다. 심지어, 4억의 돈을 날리고, 집을 저당잡히고, 사채를 빌려써서 독촉장이 쌓여가며 이혼까지 한 가정을 보았다. 딸아이를 두고 있는 한 주부는 5일동안 잠도 안 자고 피씨방에서 포커를 즐긴다고 한다. 한게임은 네이버, 즉NHN이 운영하고 있으며, 네이버는 지금 대한민국 제1의 포털이다. (한게임은 현재 가입자수 3200만명, 하루 평균 방문자 300만명, 동시 접속자 수 최대 25만명을 기록하고 있다). 어제 피디수첩의 취재에는 네이버가 그런 머니장으로 인한 거래를 충분히 막을 수 있음에도 불구하고 방치하고 있다는 것… 이것은 NHN의 수익구조에 이런 한게임 포커가 일조를 하는 셈이라 볼 수 있다. (지금 현재 NHN의 수익의 26%가 한게임이다). 이로써 NHN는 도덕성, 윤리성에 치명타를 입게 되었다.[…]

At present, online games are regarded as the goose that gives birth to golden eggs. The total sales are recorded to 8 trillion 300 billion won. The total sales of the movie industry in 2007 was 3 trillion 500 billion won and therefore the gaming industry is 2.5 times bigger than the latter. The gaming industry became one of the most important representatives of the cultural content industry in Korea. However, the number of people who get addicted to Internet games is getting more and more. The three major game sites are Nexon, NHN, and NCsoft. Following NCsoft (Lineage Service), Nexon and NHN are catching up with it. NHN manages the Hangame and the most popular game there is the poker game. Since the ‘Sea Story’ disappeared after supervision, game users moved to online poker sites. Hangame has a space which is called Money Space, and users play games after buying the game money with cash. The game money can’t be more than 300,000 won per month. Therefore the users give cash to the money dealers and play games with them – they intentionally lose their money and earn the game money instead. There is a family who even lost 400 million won, encumbered their house with mortgage, borrowed into personal debt, and broke the family in the end. According to a housewife with a daughter, she doesn’t sleep for five days and plays poker in the PC room. Hangame is managed by Naver. Naver is the most popular portal site in Korea now (Hangame has 32 million members. The number of visitors per day is 3 million, and visitors at one time are 250,000 at most). According to the TV program yesterday, even though Naver can block this money deal, they don’t do so because the poker game generates profit for NHN company (At present, 26 percent of the whole profit of NHN is from Hangame). It gives a moral question to NHN.[…]

A netizen explains how the internet game could turn to gambling.

어제 피디수첩을 보면서 이문제가 얼마나 심각한지를 알게 되었습니다. 최근에 아는 사촌형이 돌아가셨는데 한게임이야기를 해서 특히하다고 생각했는데… 특이한것이 아니고 한게임의 도박의 위험성이 제 주위에도 있음을 보았습니다. 그분은 40이 넘었는데 돌아가시기 몇년동안 한게임 포커에 빠져 며칠씩 게임에만 빠져있었다고 합니다. 그것이 계기가 되어 몸이 급속도로 나빠졌다고 하더군요. 돌아가신 이유는 다른데 있었지만 그 게임하면서 몸이 망가진 것이 원인이였다는 말을 주위분들에게 들었습니다. 경제적 손실도 있었다고 들었습니다.

먼저 한게임의 사행성 게임을 금지해야하는 이유를 보지요.
————————
2008.5월에 다음과 같은 기사가 났습니다. 경찰은 850억 원 어치의 게임머니를 거래해 45억 원을 챙긴 혐의로 불법 환전상 93명을 붙잡았습니다.

[인터뷰]
“건전해야 될 온라인 게임이 불법 환전사이트 때문에 현금 도박화되기 때문에 사회적인 폐해가 심각하고 그 피해로 학생이나 심지어 주부까지도 피해를 입는 것으로 확인…”

사용자들은 돈을 주고 산 게임머니를 수백만 원까지 내걸면서 고스톱이나 포커에 빠져들었습니다. 어린이에서 주부에 이르기까지 평균 수백만 원대 도박을 한 셈입니다. 온라인 게임에선 한 번에 배팅할 수 있는 금액을 게임머니 2,000조, 즉 300만 원으로 제한하고 있지만 여러 차례 반복한다면 사실상 배팅한도는 없는 것이나 마찬가지입니다. 경찰은 게임머니 환전사이트에서 거래되는 금액이 수천억 원에 이를 것으로 보고 지속적으로 단속하기로 했습니다.
————-
어제 피디수첩에서는 한게임으로 피해를 본 사람들을 이렇게 취재했다.
———-
취재 결과 한게임에서 벌어지는 도박판화 된 게임에 빠져 인터넷 도박중독에 빠진 사람들이 너무도 많고 피해가 심각했다. 남편이 한게임 포커에 빠져 집이 넘어가 친정으로 들어가 살 수 밖에 없는 20대 주부, 한게임 고스톱을 게임으로 시작했다가 지난 3년 간 4억을 날리고 이혼 위기에 놓인 30대 주부, 한게임에서 하루에 200만원을 따고 쉽게 돈을 벌 수 있다는 생각에 직장을 그만둔 20대 청년, 하루에 수백만원을 잃을 때마다 누군가를 죽이고 싶었다는 30대 직장인 등 인터넷 도박 중독자들의 수는 헤아리기 힘들 정도다. 이들은 도박을 한 자신들의 잘못을 인정하면서도 한게임이 사행성을 부추기는 도박장이라며 한게임의 폐쇄를 주장하기도 한다. 심지어 더 이상의 피해자를 막기 위해 한게임과 정부를 상대로 소송을 준비하는 사람들도 있다. 한게임이 인터넷 도박으로 변질되는 가장 핵심은 사이버머니 환전상이다. 한게임에서 포카와 고스톱 게임을 하다가 사이버머니를 따거나 잃을 경우 환전상들이 이를 현금화해주기 때문. 포털게임사들과 정부가 ‘포상금제도'를 내거는 등 단속의 의지를 보이고 있다. 사이버머니 환전상만 잡으면 도박화되는 것을 막을 수 있다는 것. 하지만 사이버머니 환전상들은 자신들의 잘못을 인정하면서도 보다 근본적인 책임은 한게임에 있다고 주장한다. '30초에 300만원'인 판이 벌어지는 한게임은 이미 게임이 아닌 도박이며 이런 판을 벌일 수 있는 공간을 제공한 한게임은 불법도박장인 하우스와 다를 바가 없다는 주장이다.
——————

한게임에서는 환전상의 문제이고 게임이용자들의 문제라고 하는데.[…]

Since I saw the program, I recognized how serious this problem is. Recently, a relative passed away. He is about 40 years old and for several years before he passed away, he indulged in the Hangame poker game and played the game for several days. Starting from this, his health got suddenly worse. Of course there was another reason why he passed away, but it was also one of the reasons why he didn’t take care of himself according to people around him.

I would like to show why Hangame should be prohibited.
There was a report in May in 2008. The police arrested 93 illegal money exchangers who took 4.5 billion won to trade the game money that is worth to 85 billion won.
[Interview…]
“The online game that should be wholesome gives damages to students as well as housewives because illegal money exchange sites change the online game to cash gambling…” Users buy game money with cash and indulged in games, such as Go-stop and poker, betting several million won. The users are from children to housewives and gamble with several million won. The amount of money that the users bet on the online game per time is limited to 2,000 jo, game money (in other words, 3 million won), but if you do several times, there is no limitation.

According to the report, people who are addicted to Internet gambling are a lot and the damages are serious. They showed the stories from a housewife in her 20s who had to move into her parents’ house after her husband bet their house in the Hangame poker, a housewife in the 30s who just started the Hangame Go-stop game and is sued for the divorce after she lost 400 million won for three years, a man in his 20s who quit his job after he earned 2 million won in a day at Hangame and dreams of making more money, and an employee in his 30s who threatens to kill someone every time he loses several million won at the game per day.

They recognize their mistakes and insist that Hangame encourages gambling, and therefore it should be closed. In order to prevent more damage, some people prepare to sue Hangame and government. The reason why Hangame deteriorates into Internet gambling is due to cyber money dealer. When you gain or lose cyber money while you play the poker and go-stop games, the money dealer changes it to cash. Portal game companies and government try to catch them under the compensation system if someone gives the tip about those illegal money dealers. What they insist is that if they catch those illegal dealers, the tendency toward gambling will decrease. However, according to those cyber money dealers, they recognize their own faults, but the major responsibility is from Hangame. Hangame, which has a game with 3 million won per 30 seconds, is not just a game, but gambling. By providing such a space, Hangame doesn’t have so much difference from illegal gambling places.

Hangame says the problems are caused by illegal money dears and by game users[…]

Relations with Naver and Hangame seem to lead netizens to ask more moral questions.

어제 PD수첩 보셨습니까? 내용인 즉슨 한게임의 도박성을 고발 하는 거였습니다. 여러문제의 게임이 있지만 그중 한게임을 꼭 찝어서 방송을 하더군요. 한게임은 네이버의 자회사입니다. 작년 아프카니스탄 인질사건을 계기로 시작한 네이버의 여론조작을 많은 네티즌들께서는 분노를 느끼셨을 겁니다. 대선즈음 해서는 이명박 감싸기를 실시하며 이명박이 대통령 되는데 결정적인 역할을 하는데 1등공신중 하나인 NHN 현재 국민들은 조.중.동 근절에 힘쓰고 있지만 NHN은 일부의 네티즌들이 불매운동을 펼치고 있습니다[…]

Did you see ‘PD Soocheop’ yesterday? It was about an inclination to gambling of Hangame. There are several game and portal sites, but the program focused on the Hangame. Hangame is a subsidiary company of Naver. Last year, many netizens were mad at fabrication of public opinions of Naver about the Korean hostage scandal in Afghanistan. During the Presidential election, Naver supported Lee Myung Bak and had the biggest influence on making Lee the president. While the people are busy eradicating Cho-Joong-Dong newspapers now, netizens have a campaign not to use NHN[…]

This issue mentioned a TV program and following netizens’ criticisms are also interpreted in another way to other netizens.

[…] pd 수첩에서 갑자기 nhn 죽이기 하길래 무슨이유인가 했더니. nhn에서 친정부적인 입장을 고수해서라던데. 한게임 포커랑 고스톱은 전국민이 이용하는 게임입니다. 고스톱 포커 게임 없는 게임포털 없구요. (일부나쁘게 악용하는 유저를 단속방안을 내는것이 맞는 방송인데. nhn죽이기로 나선다는거.. 이건 말이 안되죠. )[…]

[…] I was wondering why the PD Note (the TV program) suddenly tried to kill NHN. It was because NHN showed the pro-government tendency. Hangame poker and go-stop games are what all people use. All game portal sites have go-stop and poker games (The program should have talked about the solution to prevent users who make use of these games for their own sakes, but it was just for killing NHN…It doesn’t make sense)[…]

6 comments

  • R. Elgin

    That last paragraph makes me wonder if NHN will go on a list of “michincow” projects in Korea. I too am wondering about PD Note’s motivation in this since they played a major role in fanning the current furor over mad cow in Korea.

  • […] Hye-jin of globalvoices.org writes on the dangers of Korean internet gambling and some of the major sites that are behind such and the money/politics trail […]

  • american gyopo

    PD Note is just another leftist organization disguised as journalism. It is yellow journalism at best and vindictive politics at worst. Let the Korean Teachers Union, PD Note and other communists have their little protests and TV shows while the capitalists get on with making Korea a better place.

  • Mr. Moon

    PD Note is the best TV program in S. Korea which has tried to reveal a lot of veiled absurdities and irregularities in our society. The pro is always battling against the conservative newapapers, Cho-Jung-Dong, one of the social evils. The huge, selfish press have only served for the rich, the powerful not for the poor, the powerless. If anyone have objection to my opinion, email me anytime. I am reday to debate on that matter to meet with anyone.

  • R. Elgin

    “Mr. Moon”, it is not so much that anyone denies that the three big papers are clearly biased (they certainly are) and they do fail to cover certain issues due to business interests. Clearly reform is needed in Korean media but how quickly would that reform turn to censorship!

    The PD is clearly biased as well, though who is to say what interests they represent, especially after having put misleading information regarding BSE on TV. Is fanning hysteria and rumors responsible media programming?

    No.

    PD may have done some useful reports in the past (I think they have) but, in this recent incidence, they have failed, IMHO.

    The tendency to view Korean media as part of a vast class struggle; rich vs. poor — as you have done — is very much the same rhetoric used by leftist in Korea and is very much a part of the conflict between North Korea and South Korea. I am very suspicious of anyone using such a tack simply because the ideology involved and its tragic history in Korea.

  • R. Elgin

    It seems that PD Notebook has attempted to blame a translator for their program on “mad cow disease” that contained more than a few problems in accuracy. The translator is hopping mad too, insisting that she warned them of errors and that the problem lay not with her translation but “the problems (with PDs reporting) are not translation issues but reflect deliberate editorial intent”:

    http://joongangdaily.joins.com/article/view.asp?aid=2891602

    Mr. Moon, maybe you had better hold off on your defense of PD just now.

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