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Virtual item trading to be banned in South Korea
Virtual item trading to be banned in South Korea
June 15, 2012 | By Mike Rose

June 15, 2012 | By Mike Rose
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    33 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing



Authorities in South Korea plan to introduce a new law next month that will ban all virtual item trading and virtual item harvesting, as it says game item trading is one of the causes of teenage crime in the country.

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism is set to announce the details of the law next month, in a bid to encourage students not to waste time gathering virtual currency.

The law will also cover programs that some users utilize to automatically harvest items in online games without the need for the player to be present, covering the use of gold bot farming. The ministry estimates that over 60 percent of virtual items exchanged online in Korea are obtained via these automatic programs, reports The Korea Times.

Kim Kap-soo, head of the ministry's content policy division, said that the law was in aid of creating a healthy game culture in the country, noting that games should be used more often for academic purposes.

Anyone who violates the law may see a maximum fine of 50 million won ($43,000) and five years in prison. The ministry plans to provide the police department in Korea with active guidelines, such that it can actively enforce the law.


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Comments


Maria Jayne
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Mixed feelings on this, my first thought was, nobody should get to say what video games should or should not be to individuals, they shouldn't get to dictate how or why you play them.

On the other hand, farming sweat shops, gold spam ads in online games, bot farming and third party companies selling virtual goods in other peoples games have a huge negative impact on the experience of most gamers. Even if you don't give them business, you are affected by other people who do.

I doubt it will change online gaming much though, those that make monetary gain from such activities will likely relocate their business to another country.

Glenn Sturgeon
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Unless i'm mistaken this is in South korea.

Mike Rose
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Hey Glenn, you're absolutely right, my apologies - fixed.

Glenn Sturgeon
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@Mike its fine.
Too bad it wasn't N.Korea.)

People tend to drasticly under estimate how much money is generated by bot farms!
I realy wonder how much of an issue farming will be in Diablo 3 with the RMAH.
I'd guess they will get hit by 1000s of attempted hacks and bot runners a week, if not every day.

Amanda Lee Matthews
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"Crime" is going to go way up, now, since most virtual traders won't stop.

Sean Kiley
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Exactly, they are just going to force the activity underground and start sending intelligent people to jail.

Amanda Lee Matthews
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Maciej Bacal, there are many games that allow and even encourage item selling. And it seems this isn't just about selling, but virtual TRADING (because really, how can you separate the two? If I trade you $5 for an item, it is little different than me buying a $5 item and trading that to you for another item and then you selling the item back to the game for $5 or $5 worth of game gold). MOST online games allow trading. If they don't want people trading, they generally don't put the ability to do so into the game.

If people are committing crimes related to virtual trading, then just enforce those laws. Don't make it illegal for people doing it within the current laws and within the EULA.

Sean Kiley
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Obviously there is a demand that has sparked this market. Doesn't matter if the thing in demand is real or virtual, it indeed has value if someone is willing to pay for it. Why penalize the people that have realized this?

John Powers
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Maciej Bacal, I'm confused on how you consider virtual goods to have no real world value? How do you think any good has value? People assign value to something and it's now valuable. It's that simple. As soon as people started paying for goods in video games, they became "real world" goods. Using the reasoning well you can't use the virtual good outside of the game. Well I can use the same logic and say I can only use goods in certain situations, why can't I drink my milk underwater?

Virtual goods have "real world" value the moment someone spent money on them. Your opinion on the extent of value for virtual goods does not mean the good has no value.

[User Banned]
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Joseph Anthony B. A. Tanimowo-Reyes
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If so, so much for Pokemon in South Korea.

Luis Blondet
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How is " game item trading is one of the causes of teenage crime in the country."?

Randy Napier
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I could understand if it said it was one of the "leading" causes of teenage crime, but it just says it's one of the causes. Seems a little heavy-handed to me. If they just outlawed bots I'd have no problem with the law.

Reminds me of a everquest forum post ages ago before SOE/Verant started cracking down on e-bay auctions of EQ items. The poster said "Look, I live in Mexico. I can either camp rare spawns all day and sell the loot for money or I can work for drug lords". Probably hyperbole, but still a fair point.

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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Good question. A disturbing amount of people still seem to confuse correlation with causation. I was recently debating someone on here who said that homosexuality leads to an increase in unwanted child birth :/. Take any nebulous correlation between something you don't like (A) and something that most people don't like (B), claim that A causes B, then try to use this to get the majority that dislikes B to dislike A so you aren't alone. It's sad, really.

Did you know that human population causes human war? It's true; in fact, if you go back far enough in history, when there were no humans there was no war! Obviously the solution to stop war is to kill everyone!

Ian Uniacke
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Kids want money to buy the stuff they like...lets ban kids!

Cordero W
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Now let's see if US will be smart enough to follow suit. First japan banning chance monetization in social games, and now this. Sooner or later, the West should gain word of this. And maybe then we can stop companies like EA, too.

Nick Putnam
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South Korea just has different ways of solving their cultural issues than the US. It seems strange, though isn't that strange to south koreans. The US wouldn't go to this extent, though it kinda shows how games correspond and evolve with culture changes. Since the US is in the spot light for obesity as a legit issue, more games and hardware are being stuctured around more active player input, then the standard controller layout, and sitting on a couch, for hours. Different strokes for different folks.

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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But none of that is government mandated in the US. I don't think this comparison is on the mark because your example of activity trends in the US game market is driven by the companies electing to make these products and consumers electing to buy them, not the government threatening to put people in jail for sitting down while playing games. Although we do have silly laws that conflate correlation with causation, such as marijuana being illegal because it might lead to harder drugs, so point taken.

Nick Putnam
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I agree, it may not be a direct comparison, yet just a comparison between the way South Korea deals with cultural issues over the way the US deals with them. While in South Korea when the government feels their is a cultural issue that needs to be dealt with they pass a law that uses fear to get people to ether conform, or the side effect to go underground. While in the US business and culture go hand and hand. When their is a wide concern over an issue, business capitalizes on finding new ways to solve these issues.

Bruno Xavier
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Oh god... I've committed crimes...

Ramin Shokrizade
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Ugg, I have such a bad feeling about this. I started thinking about ways to prevent this in 2001 when I worked for Nexon, and went all in in 2005 to come up with alternative virtual economies and monetization methods to prevent just this sort of regulatory backlash. I do not think this approach that South Korea's legislature is taking will work, they are casting too large a net and don't fully understand what it is they are trying to stop. This will be devastating to both South Korean game companies and their customers. As others have pointed out, this will not stop the grey market, it is more likely to force consumers to markets outside of South Korea since there is legitimate demand for virtual items and their trade.

This makes me want to get a plane ticket to South Korea and go bang on some doors down at the capitol.

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Ordani Briton
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Politicians are upset because they can't get a cut of that money. The mmo publishers and developers
haven't bribed them well enough.

Jeremy Reaban
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Any time you pass a law that potentially will put someone in jail, you really need to step back and think "Is this really worth imprisoning someone for?"

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Charmie Kim
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I think the article doesn't make it very clear, we're not talking about in-game item sales or in-game trades. Just transactions that happen outside the game's context.

Problem is that South Korea is small enough that these transactions can take place in person or without ID protection. It's partly organized but it's also largely done by high school kids or people out of work informally as a 'part time job' so you can figure how teenage crime comes into play there. It's also mostly untraceable and untaxable, so that probably has something to do with it.

Although I don't agree with it, as an alternate perspective this could actually be good for S.Korean game industry. Games tend to have a way longer life span in S.Korea than they naturally should because of the shadow economy that ends up depending on specific titles (Lineage 1 as an example). Funny story, when I told my cousin in South Korea that I played Lineage 2 his response was "why? do you need money?". This really puts a damper on game companies creating new games and innovating their business models.

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James Orevich
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Thank you very much for your input.
There's a lot of information here that should be in the article.
I hope everyone reads your response, Charmie Kim. People would be better informed and it would facilitate intelligent discussion.

Charmie Kim
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Thanks, I think there's always danger when reporting in regards to cultures that people don't understand. It's so easy to make snap judgements where they really don't work.

Most ridiculous to me are people that are comparing this as anything close to what North Korea does to their citizens.

Ramin Shokrizade
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When I classified all real money transfer activity into three types last year (RMT1/RMT2/RMT3: http://gameful.org/groups/games-for-change/forum/topic/real-money
-transfer-classification/) I was attempting to lay the foundation for rigorous discussion about exactly this. When a player jumps into a game like Lineage to "make money" that is RMT2 activity as I define it. RMT2 used to be extremely lucrative in games, but the rise of microtransaction based monetization models (RMT1) made this much more difficult. RMT1 itself has adapted in unhealthy ways in reaction to the threat of RMT3 activity (industrialized gold farmers).

All of this activity, especially RMT1 and RMT3 threaten virtual good and currency equity, which imo reduce product lifespan as players get discouraged if their work loses value. A lot of my most recent work on developing virtual economic models attempts to create sustainable equity economies that would boost RMT2 activity as you describe, allowing people to "work" in virtual environments. This legislation would make all of that work irrelevant, even if my work solved the problems the legislation is trying to counter.

Ian Uniacke
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The argument isn't about whether this "does" or "doesn't" inspire crime or not. The argument is philosophical. ie Should we make something illegal because it's so popular that people will commit crimes to fund it. Basically anything popular could fall under the same category so therefore I would have to conclude that this law is unjust.

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Jonathan Murphy
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The classic old generation telling the young what they can't do. If no valid reason is given the young rebel. Instead of attacking those who will one day run things try and adapt.


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