State-Run Casino in South Korea Admits to Scale of Its Own Corruption

Posted on: September 13, 2017, 06:30h. 

Last updated on: September 13, 2017, 06:33h.


The largest casino in South Korea, Kangwon Land, has admitted to committing acts of nepotism on an industrial scale. The mea culpa appears to be an effort to show the state-owned casino’s new commitment to transparency, after it was rocked by a corruption scandal that led to the criminal indictment of its CEO.

Kangwon Land Casino in South Korea
The Kangwon Land Casino in South Korea admitted that by 2015 nearly 95 percent of employees were on the payroll as a matter of political favor. (Image: Panoramio)

According to Kangwon Land officials, about 95 percent of all staff hired between July 2011 and February 2014, some 493 people, were chosen not on merit but due to their political connections or because they were cozy with former CEO Choi Heung-jip.

“We apologize for committing a crime which would have been possible only in the 1960s or ’70s,” a company statement said. “A thing of the past is tarnishing the image of Kangwon Land, which has been trying hard to improve its transparency in recent years. It breaks the hearts of all employees and we are very sorry.”

Hints of Cover-Up

It’s the first time the casino has admitted any culpability for the large-scale corruption scandal that erupted in 2015 and led to the indictment of Choi and a human resources manager.

Current casino officials this week laid blame squarely on its former CEO, but there have been recent calls to reopen the case amid claims the initial investigation was fudged to protect high-powered casino executives and government personnel.

The governing Democratic Party wants prosecutors to launch a probe into politicians of the then-ruling Liberty Korea Party who allegedly pressured investigators to drop the case.

Accusations of ‘Unimaginable’ Corruption

One of those allegedly illegal hires was a former intern of Liberty Korea Representative Kwon Seong-dong, who, as chairman of the Judiciary Committee of the National Assembly, was involved in last year’s impeachment of South Korea’s first female president, Park Geun-hye, for corruption.

Until 2012, Kwon belonged to an Assembly committee charged with overseeing the Kangwon Land casino’s operations.

“This is an unimaginable corruption scandal involving a state-run company, which is funded by taxpayer money,” Democratic Party spokesman Choi Suk said. “Other applicants didn’t have the same chances of success. Prosecutors should reopen the case to reveal the whole truth.”

Kangwon Land, situated in a remote upland area 90 miles from the capital, Seoul, is the only casino in South Korea that allows gambling by Korean nationals. Its special status makes it by far the largest grossing casino in the country.

It has recently come under political pressure to moderate its growth and step up responsible gambling protocols.