South Korean Pop Star Jin Woo Takes a Trip to Prison for Illegal Gambling

In iGaming by on May 29, 2017



Jung Jin Woo was once considered a star with a promising future in the Korean music industry. His fan following was in the hundreds of thousands. While many of his fans came from all across the country, other hailed from many far away parts of Asia. He achieved instant fame after appearing on the fifth season of the popular reality show, K- Pop Star, which is the South Korean version of American Idol. He had made it all the way to the top 10 before he was boot booted off on the 17th episode, while he was in 7th place. Prior to his run on the hit TV show, he was also part of the popular Korean boy band group – M to M. He had parted ways from that band in 2013 in hopes of starting a solo career.

All was going well for him and his music career, when his penchant for gambling landed him in hot water. He will now have to serve at least one year behind bars for his crime. It was after his dismissal from K- Pop Star that the federal authorities disclosed that they had been investigating him all along. The authorities also mentioned that the investigation had been going on since as far back as 2014.

Under federal laws, Koreans nationals are not allowed to take part in any gambling activities. Given the nature of the laws, anyone who indulges in wagering activities has to face severe penalties for even trying to evade the rules. However, Jin Woo was lucky in a sense; he was given a chance at redemption. Before his conviction, he was issued a warning and given the opportunity to stop his illegal involvements. The government had first issued a warning to him when they detected unlawful activities on his computers and other devices. Jin Woo had taken little notice of that warning and did very little to amend his ways. He was finally arrested when he failed to curtail his gambling habits.

According to media reports, the 32 year old had gambled over USD $3 million on illegal gambling websites. Realising the error of his ways, he had asked his stepfather to cover up for his activities. The end result was, however, not in his favour. Jin Woo pleaded guilty to illegal gambling. In fact, he was also charged for asking his stepfather to make false statements to the law on his behalf. The Seoul Southern District Court was left with no choice but to sentence Jung to a year in federal prison.

The country has one of the strictest gambling laws in the world. It also takes pride in making examples of its own citizens if they choose to break the law. Gambling is considered a leech on society and every possible measure is taken to keep its citizens away from casinos.

The year 2013 saw a string of prominent celebrities in South Korea being sentenced to 6 months each in prison for participation in sports betting. Some others, whose betting offences were smaller, managed to get away with just monitory fines. This was mainly because they had wagered smaller amounts compared to the others.

Another country that has shown a strong disapproval for gambling is Japan. Contradicting this point of view, two commercials integrated resorts have been approved in Japan by the National Diet late last year. It therefore makes it tricky for the country to decide on how to proceed with the matter.

Kento Momota, the professional Japanese badminton player, portrayed a clear example of how Japan enforces strict laws even on its own residents when it comes to gambling. Badminton is considered an honourable sport in Asia. While China has dominated the Olympics badminton scene since it was added to the Summer Games in 1972, Momota is considered one of Asia’s finest players. With Momota Japan had a strong chance of attaining the men’s singles medal. Just last summer, ahead of the Olympics Games in Rio de Janeiro, Momota was ranked number 2 in the world. It was around this time that the then 21 year old sportsman admitted to gambling at casinos while he was overseas. He also admitted to gambling at an underground ring in Tokyo on numerous occasions. As a result, Japan decided to remove him from their Olympics team. This ended the country’s hopes of capturing the men’s singles title. Momota had not placed any bets on sports but had indulged in baccarat on his casino trip. His total losses according to his calculations came to just USD $5,000, which is close to nothing when compared to other celebrity gambling incidents.

It will be interesting to see if Japan relaxes its anti- gambling stance in the coming years; once the two commercial integrated resorts open to the public. It has been mentioned that the resorts will be free for foreigners visiting Japan. However, the National Diet is expected to impose a door charge of up to USD $100 on its citizens. This would help deter their citizens from visiting the venues. On top of that, it might help the country hold on to their traditional anti- gambling views while still benefitting from the region’s gambling habits.