South Korean Youth Charged for Thefts to Support Gambling Addiction

Youth gambling has been increasing in South Korea, as evidenced by a number of studies, but the government is taking measures to try and address this issue. A recent case of a group of middle schoolers who resorted to stealing from a classmate in order to finance their habits has highlighted the challenges the country is facing.

Recently, a group of teenagers in Sejong City have been accused of repeatedly assaulting and stealing from one of their peers. From December of last year to March, the group is believed to have conducted twenty robberies against the victim to fund their online gambling. The two students among the offenders reportedly sent threatening messages to the victim, demanding money ranging from two to twenty thousand South Korean won (1.52 to 15.18 US dollars).

The victim’s parents have revealed that their son’s bank account information was obtained by the bullies, which was then used to gamble with the help of new registration bonuses and other rewards. The child has had to seek psychological help due to the trauma caused by this experience, and the family is now in the process of filing a complaint against the implicated individuals with the police.

On the educational side, the Sejong City Office of Education has established a Mediation and Reconciliation Support Group to mediate talks between the victims and their bullies. If a consensus is not reach, the school’s violence committee will be responsible for determining the appropriate action to take against the students involved, which could even result in expulsion.

Statistics have revealed a sharp increase in the number of adolescents suffering from gambling addiction in recent years. In 2019, the Korea Problem Gambling Center reported that 981 teens sought treatment for compulsive gambling, compared to only 17 in 2015. This number has been steadily increasing since then, reaching 549 over the first eight months of 2020.

Two major factors have been identified as the cause of this trend. One is the ease with which minors in South Korea are able to open bank accounts without any verification. Some of them even post their account information on social media, making it even easier for offenders to access their funds. The other is the lack of resources for providing responsible gambling education in the South Korean school system, even with politicians attempting to make budgetary changes. In some cases, teens do not even realize that what they are doing is considered gambling.