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Korea to prohibit trade of online game items starting next month

Korea's Ministry of Culture, Sports and Television wants to ban gaming bots which gather resources in gaming, as well as the ability for players to trade and farm virtual items.

According to the MCST, the gaming curfews it has enforced aren't enough to keep teenagers from what it feels is wasting too much time in games when they can be studying. Therefore the measure is set to cull some of the time it feels is wasted running around gathering items.

"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 to the Korean Times, via GI International.

The law would prohibit any programs where characters can gather items automatically, without the player present - which by itself is a positive step.

According to the ministry, over 50% of items exchanged on virtual markets were obtained via bots or similar programs and the ministry believes such actions boost, among other undesirable traits and actions, teenage crime.

The automatic gathering ban, which is already banned by game developers and publishers in general, along with the push to end trading and farming would result in a criminal offense with a penalty of ₩50 million ($45,000) max along with jail time should offenders be found guilty.

Some games, such as free-to-play titles, encourage item farming and trade and Diablo III's release in the country was in limbo at one point due to its virtual auctions. The ratings board in South Korea was worried over users being able to buy and sell items won during the game using the real-money auction house, which to it resembled a form of gambling.

Still, with Diablo III having an in-game auction house where players can sell items for in-game currency (the real-money auction house is not available in Korea), a ban on such actions could impact not only players but the game itself.

The problem, is the law being proposed isn't entirely clear just yet. While on the positive side, it would make using bots and selling gold a crime, it could also be detrimental to the player as well as the games, should the law not be clearly defined. Unless it bans every form of trading outright, it would be hard to regulate and possibly tie up the court system with innocent players trying to defend themselves.

The ministry plans to issue guidelines to the various Providences and police departments in order to actively enforce the new law, which it feels will help in the prevention of gambling and other illegal activities using games.

Plans to halt all virtual item trades, as defined in the new law, will be implemented next month when the law is defined in full next month.

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