Boosting is a crime: $18k fine and 2 years of jail in South Korea

Boosting is a crime: $18k fine and 2 years of jail in South Korea

Boosting for profit is punishable by the South Korean government with up to 2 years of jail and 20,000,000 KRW ($18k USD). The law will go into effect in 6 months.

The amendment to the Game Industry Promotion Act

The new law is an amendment to the Game Industry Promotion Act, which is a larger bill created to protect the video game and esports industry.

It defines boosting as an “act that interferes with a game’s normal operations by providing the service to acquire points or achievements in a way that is not approved by the game business operator”.

This bill, if passed, will help to create a healthy game ecosystem […] then all those ads for boosting services on the major portal sites will also be illegal” - Assemblyman Lee Dong-seop.

The National Assembly passed the bill, which will go into effect in 6 months.

Many popular games have been suffering from professional businesses specializing in boosting without a way to resolve this issue. The newly passed amendment will help to create a healthy esports ecosystem in Korea.

Who is really affected by this law

Note that it is very unlikely an individual (and especially a teenager) will really go to jail.

In the South Korean justice system, non-violent crimes that come with under 2 years of jail typically receive a “suspended sentence”. First-time offenders usually get a couple years of probation, which means their sentences are suspended during that time and later nullified as long as they stay clean. This doesn’t apply to fines.

With this law, they are mostly targeting people who run organizations and websites offering game boosting services. A “boosting company” is innately illegal because the practice itself violates the Terms of Service of all game companies.

  • Most often than not, these companies do not report taxes, so the government might lose hundreds of thousands of dollars yearly.

  • They also force the government to deal with hundreds of frauds due to fake boosting services. The victims pay for the service, provide their accounts, and lose them.

You must consider that esports is booming in South Korea (particularly Overwatch and League of Legends) so these problems became a daily routine for the government and led to the creation of this law.

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Boosters in Overwatch

Several South Korean esports athletes playing in the Overwatch League have been already punished for boosting or promotion of boosting services during the past year:

  • Dallas Fuel’s Minseok “OGE” Son was suspended for four matches during OWL Season 1.

  • Florida Mayhem’s Lee “BQB” Sang-bum received a monetary fine and was unable to stream and participate in public appearances with the team for three months.

  • Philadelphia Fusion’ Kim “SADO” Su-Min was suspended from the OWL’s preseason and the first 30 matches of the inaugural season.

In 2017, Blizzard required all players accessing Overwatch in PC bang (a type of LAN gaming center in South Korea) to enter their Korean social security number to play Overwatch without buying the game. If you have a Korean account, Overwatch is free when logged in PC bangs, which brought to the rise of hackers and boosters when the system was not regulated.

Boosters in League of Legends

Riot Games released a statement on boosting and the Korean law.

Boosters are already suppressed within League of Legends, but this law will help us catch them even better once it’s passed” - Riot Games, Korean branch.

Generally, even casual League of Legends players caught boosting or getting boosted are punished worldwide according to the following rules:

Any account found participating in MMR Boosting (both Booster and Boostee) are subject to the following punishments:

  • 2 Week Account Suspension in League of Legends

  • Your Honor will drop to level 0. Honor unlocks some time after your penalty as long as you’re showing signs of progress

  • Exclusion from receiving the current season’s Ranked Rewards

  • Second time offenders will be permanently banned from League of Legends

Sources: Naver, ThisIsGame - Header image: Blizzard

Vincenzo is an esports writer with five years of experience. Former head editor for Natus Vincere, he has produced content for DreamHack, FACEIT, DOTAFire, 2P, and more. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.