In 2005, almost 3.2 million Korean adults were addicted to a gambling arcade game called See Story (바다이야기). It came out in South Korea in 2004, as a typical slot-like game of luck. According to many Korean media, it started to cause social problems after entering the back street adult game parlours. Even not allowing cash prizes, how Sea Story became the dark history of the Korean gambling industry. The South Korean government even arrested more than 10,000 people to prohibit this “gambling” game.
What is Sea Story
As shown in the picture below, See Story is, in fact, a slot game. According to South Korea’s game regulations, this type of game is classified as adults-only.
In order to prevent gaming machines from becoming gambling tools, the government at that time made certain rules to define gambling games. It stipulated that if each game time of the arcade gaming exceeds 4 seconds, the prize limit over KRW 20,000, and the per hour consumption amount over KRW 90,000, the game would be considered gambling.
Even if the Sea Story falls into the category of gambling, the parlour owners would only reward the players with vouchers. However, players could later exchange the voucher for services and goods.
Therefore, Sea Story, published by Ziko Prime, the government officially approved the release of the game in 2004. And in August 2005, there were 19 companies that could legally issue vouchers to the game parlours.
How did See Story become gambling game in Korea?
The arcade machine has an RTP of 95%. If a player invests KRW 1milion (US$843) in the game, they can get coupons worth KRW 2.5 million (US$2,100).
In 2006, at least 45,000 units of Sea Story game consoles were sold in Korea. The country’s adult game market turnover jumped from KRW 400 billion ( US$470 million) in 2003 to KRW 30 trillion in 2005 ( US$35.8 billion). In the later stage of the arcade market, people could redeem the voucher for cash. And this is how Sea Story ended up becoming a gambling game.
The gambling game Sea Story caused many social problems in South Korea.
According to statistics from the Korea Ministry of Culture and Tourism, in those years, South Korea had 15,000 electronic game parlours, of which 13,500 were adult game parlours. Meanwhile, 80% of them were offering Sea Story.
Till 2006, the number of serious gambling addicts reached more than 3 million. The gamblers included housewives and students.
The gambling issue finally caught the attention of the highest authorities. The government confiscated all the gambling machines. Those companies involved in the gambling business had to cease operation and be held accountable.
To further tackle the gambling issue, the government revised the regulations regarding the game review system and also the gave a re-assessment to all the games approved before. Another important action of the government was to investigate all the illegal redemption of coupons.
How did Sea Story change the Korean Gambling history?
The negative impact of Sea Story made the South Korean government to deeply reflect on the problems that gambling may bring on Korean society. Since then, the government has strengthened its monopoly on gambling in legislation, and the conviction of gambling activities have become stricter. But at the same time, the Korean government’s restrictions on sports betting are gradually relaxing. In order to promote the development of public welfare and tourism, the government allows certain forms of gambling activities, such as betting and casino resorts.
National gambling activities permitted by law include horse racing betting and chess betting. But whether the future expansion of the gaming market depends entirely on the government.