More South Korean celebrities are facing charges of ‘habitual’ gambling at overseas casinos in violation of local law.
On Wednesday, the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency’s Sophisticated Crime Investigation Division wrapped up its months-long probe into whether several individuals, including former K-pop star Seungri and YG Entertainment CEO Yang Hyun Suk, were guilty of so-called ‘habitual’ gambling at casinos based outside the country.
South Korea has extremely strict limits on its citizens’ gambling activity, restricting them to local lotteries, a few race wagering options and the Kangwon Land casino 200km north of Seoul. South Korean nationals found to have gambled for more than “momentary pleasure” at overseas casinos can face fines of up to KRW20m (US$17k) and prison terms of up to three years.
Investigators claim that the 28-year-old Seungri (pictured), a former member of the BigBang boy band, spent over KRW1b ($855k) during semi-annual visits to an unspecified Las Vegas casino since 2014. Police believe Seungri’s gambling has been going on for a lot longer, but the habitual gambling laws have a five-year statute of limitations.
The 49-year-old Yang, who stepped down from the CEO position at K-pop management firm/record label YG Entertainment this summer, reportedly spent several hundred million won at multiple Vegas casinos over the same time period. Three of Yang’s acquaintances, none of whom are public figures, will reportedly face similar charges.
Local media quoted a police official saying the gamblers were also suspected of violating the Foreign Exchange Transaction Act in order to fund their overseas activity, but the probe failed to uncover evidence to support charges.
Last December, South Korean police charged former female K-pop star Shoo with habitual gambling after she lost KRW790m at Macau casinos over a two-year span. In February, Shoo was given a six-month prison sentence, suspended for two years. The singer came out of self-exile this week by announcing the release of a new single, which we really hope is a cover of Lady Gaga’s Poker Face.
The hubbub over Shoo’s (and others) non-momentary gambling in Macau compelled South Korea’s consul general in Hong Kong to announce this week that two new legal cooperation agreements signed with Macau authorities weren’t specifically focused on South Koreans who gamble in casinos.
While consul general Sonia Chan Hoi Fan denied that the aim of the agreements was “to constrain or limit Korean tourists to Macau,” she copped to the fact that it is “difficult to distinguish what is gambling and what is recreation,” and thus Koreans should strive to moderate their activities in any foreign casino hub.