Gold Farming Regulation in South Korea?

Posted on January 4, 2007

You've probably heard of the concept of gold farming where companies hire people to gather gold and weapons in MMORPGs which they then resell. Ars Technica is reporting that a new bill proposed by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in South Korea may impose new regulations on gold farming in that country and maybe even make it illegal.

The South Korean bill has received strong support from some in the game industry, particularly companies that run multiplayer Internet games in which the commercial exchange of virtual currency can potentially disrupt balance and competition. On the other side of the issue are gold-farming companies that serve the growing market for virtual currency. An article in The Korea Times cites statistics from the country's Game Development and Promotion institute, which states that the size of the virtual item exchange market is roughly $1 billion and estimates that approximately 60 percent of item trading company profits come from gold farming.

As gold farmers are quick to point out, prohibition will not decrease the market for virtual currency, and somebody will always emerge to take advantage of it. Prohibition, anyone? By imposing penalties on virtual currency exchange, the Korean government will deprive native companies of access to a rapidly growing, $1 billion dollar market that will still be serviced by foreign companies. Many MMORPG developers already have policies forbidding the commercial exchange of virtual currency, and some might question if it is fair to the tax-paying public to shift the costs and burdens of enforcing those policies to the Korean government.

There will always be a market for gold farming because there are always going to be players who look for an easy way to jump to a higher level character. Game Politics says South Koreas virtual gold and property market is about a billion dollars. Game Politics raises this issue of how South Korea would actually go about enforcing a ban on virtual good trading. China is also known for being big in gold farming -- they even have gold farming factories.

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