[FOUNTAIN]Let the games begin!

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[FOUNTAIN]Let the games begin!

Zeus accidentally became the king of heaven. After dethroning Cronos, Zeus divided the dominions with his brothers using a very simple method: throwing dice. As a result, Zeus took possession of the heavens, Poseidon took the oceans and Hades took charge of the underworld.

People often refer to this Greek myth when they are talking about the history of gambling; references to gambling indeed do stretch back into the earliest days of recorded human history. In the Western world of about 1600 B.C., Egyptian gamblers were happy with a board game called senet. In the Orient, ancient Indians also played a game with dice.

Our country is no exception; history records that King Gaero of Baekje ruined his country by playing too many games of paduk, better known as "go" in the West, with Dorim, the spy-monk of the Goguryeo kingdom.

The Dutch historian Johan Huizinga said in his book "Homo Ludens" (The Playful Human), that play lies at the heart of human nature. The roots of all cultures, he said, go back to game-playing and the most exciting games are those involving wagers.

Chinese are well-known for their gambling fever, but Koreans are second to none in that regard. There is certainly no lack of creativity in Korea about gambling, and no occasion is immune from the desire to break out a pack of hwatu playing cards. Mourners break out the cards at wakes, and a long trip on a train or airplane seems to offer a perfect opportunity for a few games. The game has been criticized quite often; some saying it is an evil tool that could lead to the downfall of the country. But in the absence of alternatives, the zeal the game inspires will be hard to tame. I suppose the reason why lotteries and Kangwon Land, our first casino open to Koreans, are booming is simply because Koreans like to compete and speculate.

We do not always criticize a love of gambling or speculation. If they take the form of real estate or stock gambles, that might be a problem; but Internet game marketing, in which our country is a leader, bring on the players!

Before the soccer game with England on Tuesday evening, it was said that there was a lot of betting going on at offices. That certainly promotes a good atmosphere for the World Cup, and our World Cup fever is at about the right pitch. To interrupt the investigation of the president's sons in order to create a good atmosphere for the games is nonsense. There is already enough fever, and the investigations should go on.

The writer is the Berlin correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Yoo Jae-sik

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