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Lottery Fever Heats Up in South Korea

7 August 2001

SOUTH KOREA – August 7, 2001 –As reported by the Korea Times: "A lottery promotion reads, `Buy lottery tickets if you want to spend a week happy,' tempting citizens with the concept of how much satisfaction is derived merely by buying tickets and dreaming of the riches waiting to be won.

"Last week, many South Koreans must have fallen under the spell of such a sweet dream when they heard the news that a 37-year-old restaurant worker, identified only as Kim from Seoul, had won 2.5 billion won ($1.9 million) last Monday in a weekly draw that finances veterans' programs.

"Kim's incredible haul came after he defied odds of four million to one by purchasing the first, second and third prize tickets, and while the prize money is dwarfed by the U.S. record of $197 million set in 1999, the $1.9 million was the largest lottery prize ever won in Korea.

"…Whenever news of such windfalls hit the headlines, the lottery industry registers an immediate upsurge, with people all too willing to overlook the remote chance of winning in their attempts to grab the jackpot.

"…In what some people call `lottery fever,' a 37-year-old man was even arrested for stealing 200 lottery scratch cards.

"Korea's lottery industry market was valued at 500 billion won ($381 million) at the end of last year, with officials originally estimating that it would grow about 20 percent this year.

"However, sources say the recent lottery boom will push the growth rate well above the original estimate.

"…Experts say lottery tickets traditionally sell well in economic downturns, which could explain the recent lottery fervor.

"Some experts worry about the lottery boom's negative impact on society, saying it could fuel a `gambling spirit' among the public, and that news of sudden, unearned wealth for an extremely small number of people may lead the less fortunate into depression…"

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