South Korea’s gambling industry could get a little bigger if a small political party in the country has its way. The Bareunmirae Party in the North Jeolla province has been exploring ways to improve its economic independence and boost tourism, and has decided that a casino would be the most likely solution. As usual, though, the idea is not without controversy.
It was recently reported by South Korea’s Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries that the Saemangeum area of the province would be designated a special zone for marine leisure and tourism growth. This prompted the party to announce that it wanted a casino for foreigners and locals, saying, “Building a casino will become a turning point for growth in North Jeolla province” and that the local government should “concentrate the effort on turning the Saemangeum area into an international destination for marine leisure and tourism, just like Darling Harbour in Sydney, Australia and Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.”
However, as quickly as the announcement was made, opponents began chiming in. One was the Lorean Federation for Environmental Movements, which stated that the party is “distorting the facts to make it seem like the government is actually planning to build a casino in the Saemangeum area to boost marine tourism.”
There are 17 casinos in South Korea, of which only one allows locals, Kangwon Land in the Gangwon province. However, it’s in a remote area of the province and another casino open to locals in an area trafficked by tourists could prove more lucrative.
North Jeolla became a potential target for a casino back in 2015, but was only considered for foreign gamblers at the time. The following year, the idea resurfaced and expanded to allow locals; however, opposition on the part of Kangwon helped to halt those discussions. It is voicing its rhetoric again, asserting that any project in Saemangeum cannot be “justified in that it entails huge detrimental and intangible effects.” That’s just another way of saying it doesn’t want to lose its monopoly on gambling by locals.
Opponents are also speaking out about the government’s plans to allow the Saemangeum area to be used for tourism. They believe that any such attempts would be detrimental to the environment and are trying to convince the government to drop the plans for development in the region.