Sunday, October 15, 2006

North Korea and Gambling

North Korea scares the world. It is a rogue state, with nuclear power and a dictator, who seems to avoid any policy remotely diplomatic and prefer threats as his message to the world as means of proetcting his starving people from Western invasion.

There many interesting aspects in the North Korean story. For example, online gambling. Yes, the same issue that troubled now many American gamblers, after a new bill bans internet gambling goes into force.

It seems, the the North Korean are making part of their hard foreign capital from this very human weakness of gambling, or if you will, the capitalistic vice of greed. First of all, North Korea is one of the countries appearing in Keystroke's list of countries that allow online gambling. Naturally, its own citizens are constrained with access to Internet or free information; and have no money or credit cards to gamble online anyway. Their internal gambling games are probably based on whether they'll be something for lunch today or not; and if the latter joke would bring them closer to "re-education" camps. If online gambling is allowed, but 99% of the citizens cannot use it, who's it for? Foreign capital, of course.

Another aspect of this North Korean involvement in gambling is discussed by boquinha, in her review of Pachinko in Japan. It seems that the North Korea receives a large part of the funds lost by Japanese quasi-gamblers Pachinko players (Pachinko is not exactly gambling, as one loses money in the Pinball machine and cannot win money, only balls, but the balls could be exchanged for small-time prizes). In any case, Boquinha writes that:
"North Korean business interests are involved in as many as one-third of all pachinko facilities in Japan."
She quotes an article where it says that:
"[...] pachinko money accounts for a relatively small share of North Korea's revenue—less than $100 million annually—but the isolated nation trades so little ($2.6 billion annually) that every dollar counts".

It is interesting (and maybe also ironic) to see how North Korea uses gambling and capitalism for its own means. However, back to the nuclear issue, it also uses Western hesitation, diplomacy and democratic culture for its own good.

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