Attention Kim Jong-un, current leader of North Korea’s despotic regime: if you really want to conquer your neighbors to the south, what you need are less nukes and more online gambling sites. According to a report by the Yonhap news agency, 230 low-ranking officers and enlisted men stationed in the Seoul barracks of South Korea’s military were caught gambling online so far this year. That represents a more than 15-fold increase over the number of South Korea’s finest that were detected getting their on-duty online gambling on in 2011.
Most of the soldiers who were caught gambling online were found to have done so using computers set up to allow military members to either qualify for certificates to boost their military status or to earn credits from colleges and universities. The fact that soldiers were attempting to earn very different ‘credits’ has pushed the general staff close to getting out the cigarettes and blindfolds. An army official said the defense ministry would “take strict measures to prevent soldiers from accessing gambling and pornographic internet sites in the barracks.” No word on whether this edict applies to tablet-equipped soldiers hunkered down in foxholes in the demilitarized zone along the 38th parallel.
Online gambling is illegal in South Korea, as is visiting all but one of the nation’s 17 brick-and-mortar casinos. North Korea also has (or had) a casino in the so-called ‘free economic and trade zone’ in the port city of Rason near the Chinese border. The Emperor Casino was run by Hong Kong’s Emperor Group, which also operates Macau’s Grand Emperor Hotel under an SJM Holdings sub-concession. The North Korean casino was supposedly closed in 2005 after a Chinese official gambled away RMB 3.5m (US $568k) in public money – and was executed shortly thereafter – but it re-opened within a year, only to be closed again following the 2011 death of Kim Jong-Il. Its current status is a matter of some debate, with rumors rampant that Chinese officials can still manage to get their gaming fix provided they’re willing to bring noted roundball fan Kim Jong-un some vintage Chicago Bulls’ trading cards.