NATIONAL

Claw machine experts not thieves: police

By Lim Jeong-yeo
  • Published : Apr 16, 2017 - 18:06
  • Updated : Apr 16, 2017 - 18:06
The two men who picked up over 200 dolls from a claw machine establishment in Daejeon under two hours did it without foul play, according to the police.

Daejeon Seobu Police on Sunday closed the case that had been suspected as theft, without pushing for criminal punishment.

Within several hours on Feb. 5, the two men -- a 29-year-old surnamed Lee and his friend -- had emptied claw machines in Daejeon filled with dolls.

Claw machines have become popular in Korea as a source of entertainment. Establishments packed with machines filled with stuffed Pokemon and manga characters have sprouted up. 

A man plays at a claw machine (Lim Jeong-yeo/The Korea Herald)

Experts say the phenomenon stems from the higher quality dolls the machines now offer as prizes compared to in the past. There is also a sense of victory from the activity, which allows stress relief for some at a cheap price of a few thousand won.

But a claw machine emptied of all its dolls is a rare sight because few are skilled enough to achieve the feat.

Therefore, the machines in Daejeon that were out of their supply of dolls in such a short time were a shock to their owner, who reported the case to the police. 

Claw machines have become popular in Korea (Lim Jeong-yeo/The Korea Herald)


The police admitted they had difficulty labeling the case as either theft, a scam or obstruction of business.

A majority of the online community thought the men were innocent. “Is catching an exceptionally big fish at a lake a criminal offence?” said one internet user.

Never having dealt with a case like this, the police sought advice from a group of law school professors and practicing lawyers.

The advisory panel acknowledged Lee and his friend had developed special skills at maneuvering the joy stick, hiking up their chances of winning. However, they still failed a few times.

The police determined Lee and his friend had played the game fairly and dropped the case.

By Lim Jeong-yeo (kaylalim@heraldcorp.com)