Cybercriminals target online gamers

South Korea leads the world in its population's enthusiastic approach to the Internet and the latest technology, but cybercrime is a growing problem

With its enthusiastic take-up of technologies such as broadband and the Internet, South Korea is often seen as a flagship country that others such as the UK could learn from. Its transformation into a cybernation is not without its downside, though, according to latest reports.

South Korean police warned this week that levels of cybercrime in the country are soaring. So far this year, 40,000 have been reported -- an 18 percent increase on the same period in 2002. More than 22,000 of these cybercrimes involved online gaming sites, which are extremely popular in South Korea.

A spokesman for South Korea's National Police Agency (NPA) told The Korea Times  that cybercriminals are becoming increasingly organised, and target online gaming sites in the hope of defrauding the services and converting cybermoney into hard cash.

"A lot of cybercrimes involve cybermoney, but people are buying and selling this cybermoney with real cash," the NPA spokesman explained.

According to reports, two people were arrested earlier this year amid claims that they had hacked into an online game server and awarded themselves huge amounts of cybercurrency, which they had then managed to exchange for 1.5 billion South Korean won (almost £800,000).