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Over 2 million Koreans experience gambling addiction

Some 2.07 million South Koreans aged 20 or older have been addicted to gambling at least once as of last year, while 82.2 percent of the population have gambling experience in various forms, a study showed Friday.

According to the report released by the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs, 5.4 percent of all Koreans aged 20 or older have been or are addicted to gambling, meaning they gambled even when they didn’t have the money or felt the need to be secretive about how much they gambled.

Researcher Jeon Jin-ah, who authored the study, said it’s particularly alarming that a significantly high number of Korean teenagers are being introduced to gambling through their smartphones or via the Internet. According to her, of all addicts who started gambling by visiting online sites, 59.7 percent were teenagers.

She also noted that gambling addiction is closely linked with other mental illnesses. Jeon cited 2011 research from Monash University in Australia that found that 23.1 percent of gambling addicts also had alcohol addiction, while 37.4 percent of them had an anxiety disorder.

The researcher said more support is needed for potential gambling addicts, especially those in their teenage years. “There are only eight institutions that specialize in gambling addiction nationwide,” she wrote in her study. “This is just not enough to tackle the problem.”

Article 246 of Korea’s Criminal Act punishes a person who gambles or bets for the purpose of gaining property with a fine of not more than 5 million won ($4,300). However, the country allows certain gambling activities to be operated under restricted circumstances, such as tourism, including casinos, slot matches and racing.

By Claire Lee (dyc@heraldcorp.com)





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