Straightening out the controversy over the sale of online-game virtual assets, the Supreme Court of South Korea ruled in favor of virtual asset traders by allowing game virtual assets to be exchanged for real money.
On January 10, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court's ruling to acquit two gamers, known only by their surnames as Kim and Lee, who were indicted on charges of illegally making a profit of approximately KRW20 million by reselling KRW234 million worth of cyber money "Aden", earned in the online game Lineage, to nearly 2,000 online gamers. In July, last year, the appellate court dismissed those charges on the grounds that cyber money "Aden" cannot be considered as a windfall game currency. At that time, the appeal court ruled that "Aden" was not so much an accidental factor as a hard-earned reward for passionate online gamers.
The highest court's decision is expected to shake the online game industry to its core. Most of the game items and in-game currency are traded on sites called "workshops", surreptitious, black-market businesses. Large-scale workshops have stayed in business, managing hundreds of accounts, obtained through the trading of personal information and ID theft. Moreover, much needs to be done to strengthen a policy tool to tax their incomes. Against this backdrop, there have been growing calls for institutional approaches to address the side effects of the trading of cyber items and currency, such as ID theft, cyber break-ins, cyber scams, and the use of auto hunting programs.
The top court's ruling has set online game service purveyors free from legal and moral issues, stemming from the sale of cyber items. Also, there is a chance of game service providers to directly engage in trading items and game currency. With estimated annual sales of KRW2.5 trillion, the market for exchanging online-game virtual assets into hard cash is also projected to be expanded.