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Casino gambling is illegal in South Korea. But only for South Korean citizens. This article explores South Korea’s gambling law dilemma, and its nervous venture into the gambling tourism industry.

It might seem strangely discriminatory, but believe it or not, South Korea has around 29 casinos (World Casino Directory, 2019). And Korean citizens are only allowed in one of them.

Gambling is not completely illegal for South Koreans. Entertainments such as horse racing and lotteries are all available if you’re feeling lucky. However, Korean criminal law prohibits its own citizens from casino gambling, not just in Korea, but worldwide. If a South Korean citizen enters a casino in, say, Las Vegas, they can be prosecuted upon their return home (although you’re unlikely to be punished unless you’re also being prosecuted for other crimes).

Despite this, South Korea welcomes gambling tourists from across the globe to its many foreigner only casinos. Allowing foreigners to enter the country to gamble is advantageous for the South Korean economy, particularly with high rollers traveling from China and other nations where gambling is popular. The stakes are high. Tourists have a lot to lose, and South Korea has much to gain.

But the government also fears the negative societal impact of gambling, like its addictive qualities, the loan sharks who might profit from a nation of gamblers, and the lengths to which some people might resort to repay or avoid their debts.

So South Korea is left in limbo. On the one hand, it seeks to entice wealthy tourists, on the other, it continues to shelter and mother its citizens. But there is one casino in which South Koreans can gamble: The Kangwon Land Resort, located in the Jeongseon region south of Seoul, is open to both Korean citizens and foreigners and brings in about half of South Korea’s annual gambling revenue.

Kangwon Land isn’t without its issues, however.

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