According to Korean Times, Korea's Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has plans "to halt all virtual item trades with a new law" which will be announced at some point next month. You can potentially add this to the already teetering pile of weird gaming laws in which the country is mired: such as an online curfew for players under the age of 18. Should it pass, the law would ban the exchange of in-game items, one of the effects of which would be the outlawing of Diablo 3's real money auction house. Is that the distinctive sound of gums flapping? Or could this be a serious step towards an effort to restrict the activities of gold farmers?
The article reports that "for online role-playing games, the law prohibits users from using programs that allow in-game characters to hunt and collect items without the need of a player controlling them", thereby making the act of farming for virtual currency and items illegal at a government level, rather than simply a breach of a game's terms of service. Breaking this new law would result in fines of up to 50 million South Korean won (around £27,500) or imprisonment for up to five years. That said, it's unclear if the law is exclusively targetting automated farming, or all virtual item trade in Korea - the original article reports both.
The ministry claims that over 60% of items exchanged on the market are acquired using bots, and that such programs having a negative impact on the reputation of online games. "The main purpose of the games is for entertainment and [they] should be used for academic and other good purposes,” insisted Kim Kap-soo, head of the ministry’s content policy division. The ministry believes that item trades contribute to wider social problems, including teenage crime.
These officials aren't just full of hot air either. Earlier this month, the Korean government raided Blizzard's Seoul office as part of an ongoing investigation into consumer complaints regarding Diablo 3. Crikey, Korea.