In an attempt to tamp down on teenage crime, South Korea is about to ban and criminalize trading virtual items in online games. Via Gamasutra:
Authorities in South Korea plan to introduce a new law next month that will ban all virtual item trading and virtual item harvesting, as it says game item trading is one of the causes of teenage crime in the country.
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism is set to announce the details of the law next month, in a bid to encourage students not to waste time gathering virtual currency.
The law will also cover programs that some users utilize to automatically harvest items in online games without the need for the player to be present, covering the use of gold bot farming. The ministry estimates that over 60 percent of virtual items exchanged online in Korea are obtained via these automatic programs, reports The Korea Times.
Those who violate the law face fines and up to five years in prison.
Many of these games (World of Warcraft for example) have rules against trading in-game items for real world money, already creating a shadow economy that didn't even need the weight of the law to fuel it. In China, corrupt prison guards even forced inmates to do the labor for them.
Now, though, criminalizing the activity will create a real black market in South Korea and the potential for even more prohibition-fueled problems.