‘Sea Story’ Case Puts Spotlight on Arcade Games

    August 21, 2006 20:12

    An investigation into a scandal surrounding the highly addictive game “Sea Story” that reportedly involves President Roh Moo-hyun’s nephew is putting the spotlight on the mushrooming additive arcade gambling machines that claim victims from all walks of life. The rapid growth of video arcades in residential areas nationwide especially affects ordinary people with limited access to legal casinos.

    A man identified as K (54) from Daejeon saw his retirement money gobbled up by the machines and was forced to get divorced. He had planned to open his own business with the retirement benefits he received three years ago, but the pull of the video arcades proved too strong, costing him his livelihood and his family. But K kept coming back in the belief he could win his money back from the slot machines until he was flat broke and became homeless, shuttling between game arcade and the underground passages where the homeless sleep. In Busan, a man identified as S (38) committed suicide at a local mountain on Aug. 13 after amassing gambling debts of some W100 million (US $1=W957). In a suicide note before hanging himself, S wrote, “The video arcades that have driven me to death should be eliminated from society.”

    A Seoul outlet of the gambling empire ‘Sea Story’

    Because of such cases, calls for regulation are getting louder. “It’s true that the victims are responsible for their suffering in the first place,” says Kim Young-joo (45), an office worker. “But the government has paid no attention to the issue and mismanaged it to the point where such additive games machines infest residential areas and, like convenience stores, are everywhere.” The Supreme Public Prosecutor’s Office and the National Police Agency websites are swamped with posts calling for investigations which Netizens say are necessary to prevent such additive games from claiming more victims.

    “I write because I have seen so many people around me suffer because of the games arcades,” one post reads. “They started gambling out of curiosity, but the slot machines were so additive they could have ended up losing all they had. Such dangerous places, by operating without any restrictions thanks to a government that is totally indifferent to the issue, are ruining the lives of many innocent people.”

    People are engrossed in “Sea Story” at a game facility in Seoul on Monday despite the arrest of representatives of adult gaming companies./Yonhap

    Civic groups have embarked on a campaign against additive arcade games. The Christian Ethics Movement has launched a campaign to publicize cases where arcade games are claiming victims and is calling for legal measures to eradicate them. The CEM estimates that 3.2 million or 9.3 percent of adults over 18 are suffering physical or psychological problems related to gambling, and 1.3 million or 3.8 percent of them are severely addicted.

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