We reported in 2006 that the National Assembly was considering something like this. However, later Korean Supreme Court decisions seemed to legalize some game-to-real market activity. Now however the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism is pushing ahead a series of provisions that will criminalize virtual item sales and especially the use of automated programs to farm virtual items. This was first mentioned by Shander in our Diablo III comment thread, referencing this reliable source elsewhere (thanks Shander!). According to the source, maximum penalties are 5 years in prison and a 50m Won ($45,000) fine. Justifying the law, the government man said “The main purpose of the games is for entertainment and should be used for academic and other good purposes.”
One blogger thinks Diablo III is the cause. I would love to hear Mr. Yoon's thoughts. Judging from this site, Korea has been doing quite a bit legislatively to restrict game playing: Banning students from beta tests, prohibiting late-night play by teens, enforcing a cooling-off period.
One is forced to wonder, again, is Korea an odd case or a leading indicator? We have asked this for 10 years, but in that time it does not seem that the US and Europe have become as generally crazy about online games as Korean society seems to be. Here in Indiana USA, it does not appear that the intensity of online gaming has yet risen to the level it seemed to be in 2002 in Korea. Where once I was certain it would happen, lately I've begun to doubt. Something is happening, but not *that.*