By Cho Mu-hyun
Korea has decided to ban trade for commercial game items from the second half of this year as a measure aimed at encouraging students to not waste time.
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has announced that it is planning to halt all virtual item trades with a new law, to be announced sometime next month.
“The main purpose of the games is for entertainment and should be used for academic and other good purposes,” said Kim Kap-soo, head of the ministry’s content policy division, Wednesday.
The government official also stressed item collecting for commercial use is a serious hindrance to creating a healthy game culture.
Korea is the world’s most-wired society with the Internet penetration rate standing at above 93 percent, data from government agencies said. Korea is also the home of the world’s biggest smartphone and TV manufacturer _ Samsung.
For online role-playing games, the law prohibits users from using programs that allow in-game characters to hunt and collect items without the need of a player controlling them.
The ministry calculates that over 60 percent of items exchanged on the market were obtained by the use of automatic programs. Such programs and other method are impinging in the way of on-line games’ negative reputation, the government agency said.
Those who violate this law will face up to a 50 million won fine, at a maximum, and five years in jail.
For arcade games, game providers will be unable to list in-game items in their accounts as property, or handout gift certificates for item purchases. In 2007, the then popular arcade game Sea Story handed out certificates that were quickly exchanged or sold for cash, and the government is concerned that a similar incident may reoccur.
The ministry said that arcade game businesses that keep books registering items and scores (that can be exchanged for cash) has risen to 1,500 as of April. There were only 50 such businesses in 2009.
In a statement, the ministry says item trades contribute to many problems in society, including teenage crime, and felt that a solution was required.
The ministry is planning to give active guidelines to provincial administrations and have the police department actively enforce the new law. The government is also heightening prevention of gambling and other illegal activities using games.
Korea is a hub for online role-playing games, which have also drawn concern because of the booming trade in virtual money and items.