Former South Korea Casino CEO Sentenced to Three-Year Prison Term

Posted on: January 10, 2019, 09:40h. 

Last updated on: January 10, 2019, 09:40h.

Disgraced former South Korea casino CEO Choi Hung-jib is headed to prison for the next three years after a court found him guilty of nepotism and illegal hiring practices.

South Korea casino Kangwon Land
South Korea casino exec Choi Hung-jib is behind bars for the next three years after committing acts of nepotism. (Image: Yonhap News Agency)

Choi was the chief executive of Kangwon Land, South Korea’s only casino permitted to allow citizens entry, from 2011 to 2014. In Chuncheon district court, he was found guilty of unfairly hiring certain people at the request of federal politicians.

South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reports that two federal lawmakers, Representatives Kweon Seong-dong and Yeom Dong-yeol, pressured Choi to hire some 50 people at Kangwon Land between late 2012 and April 2013. Kweon and Yeom were charged with abuse of power and bribery, but will not serve prison time.

Choi, however, began his three-year prison term this week.

Widespread Nepotism

Nepotism – the practice among those with power or influence of favoring relatives or friends, especially by giving them jobs – was found to be extensive at the South Korea casino. In March of 2018, law enforcement raided the casino resort and its administrative offices, and discovered that 95 percent of all staff members had some personal pre-hiring connection to an elected politician or Choi himself.

The casino said in a statement, “We apologize for committing a crime which would have been possible only in the 1960s or ’70s. A thing of the past is tarnishing the image of Kangwon Land. It breaks the hearts of all employees and we are very sorry.”

Nepotism has plagued South Korea for decades. It’s something President Moon Jae-in is desperately trying to eradicate. Moon campaigned on eliminating corruption and cronyism, but the task is large.

According to the OECD Corruption Perceptions Index, South Korea ranked 51st in transparency of the world’s countries. Its index score of 54 is actually two percentage points lower than its 2012 grade.

South Korea ranks lower than Qatar (No. 29), United Arab Emirates (No. 21), Japan (No. 20), and the US (No. 16).

New Zealand is the least-corrupt country, with an index score of 89. Somalia is the worst, with just a nine-point mark.

South Korea Casino Expansion

While the world’s major casino operators remain fixated on Japan and its forthcoming commercial gaming industry, South Korea is also receiving several high-profile integrated resort developments.

Mohegan Sun is close to breaking ground on its $5 billion Inspire casino resort located adjacent to the Incheon International Airport. The first phase will be a $1.6 billion build that will create a foreigner-only casino floor with 150 table games and 700 slot machines, 1,250 five-star hotel rooms, 15,000-seat arena, and more than 200,000 square feet of convention space.

Chinese real estate developer LongRunn International is constructing a $4 billion casino complex called Diamond City, also in Incheon. Caesars Entertainment is additionally mulling an Incheon investment, and has already acquired land near the international airport.