For the love of the game

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For the love of the game

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Baseball fans pack Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul when Doosan and Samsung play off in Game 4 of the Korean Series on Monday. By Lim Hyun-dong

Tickets for Game 4 of the Korean Series between the Doosan Bears and the Samsung Lions on Monday were sold out, and the disappointment across the faces of the two men standing in front of the ticket box at Jamsil Stadium was apparent.

Until, ever so discreetly, another man approached them.

He just happened to have two extra tickets, and he would be willing to sell them for 150,000 won ($141.52) apiece. Even though his asking price was triple the market value of 50,000 won, the two baseball fans didn’t hesitate. They paid the man and quickly entered the stadium.

This year, ticket scalpers have enjoyed a boom as excitement surrounding the Korean Series has reached a peak, and police efforts to crack down on illegal sales have only seemed to be in vain.

About 20 scalpers were pursuing deals near the Jamsil Stadium subway station on Sunday and Monday. And while police and Seoul Metropolitan Government officials are constantly on the lookout for illegal transactions, apprehensions are rarely made.

When questioned by police, the scalpers insisted they were trying to resell their leftover tickets at original prices. Because it is difficult to catch a seller during an actual transaction, the police have only made 18 arrests over the past three games. But even still, the penalty, a 160,000 won fine, is a mere slap on the wrist.

The Sports Facilities Management Center of the Seoul Metropolitan Government, which manages the baseball stadium in southern Seoul, said about 5 percent of the facility’s 250,000 seats are traded illegally for any given game.

The cheapest ticket, for a seat in the in-field stands, costs around 35,000 won.

For scalpers, who generally charge triple the price of a standard ticket, the business is a lucrative one, worth far more than 100 million won.

And, like most modern businesses, scalpers are now finding a comfortable niche on the Web.

Kim Eun-gyeong, a 24-year-old university student and a devoted Doosan fan, said she and her friends used smartphones and computers to reserve tickets online on Oct. 22. Even as they clicked through countless reservation pages, the tickets were still sold out in 10 minutes, she said.

But within an hour, postings were made on baseball fan sites about reselling the tickets. Kim ended up paying 140,000 won to buy two tickets, which had a market value of 70,000 won.

“It makes no sense that they just decide to give up their tickets only an hour after they buy them,” Kim said. “The sellers are obviously ticket scalpers.”

There are about 30 community Web sites built around baseball ticket transactions. Originally intended for people to sell leftover tickets without a profit, they are now the primary operation base of ticket scalpers.

Site managers try to delete postings from those suspected of scalping, but it’s nearly impossible to remove all of them when illegal sellers constantly change their user names and bombard the message boards.

Other sites for online flea markets and blogs are also used by scalpers.

Some illegal sellers take their business even further, going so far as to commit fraud.

In June, a 26-year-old woman was arrested on charges that she collected 570,000 won from 19 people by luring them to buy her marked-up tickets. She only had six, but she sold reservations to all of them.

Because there is no law that clearly prohibits ticket scalping through the Internet, the police have a hard time going after online ticket scalpers.

In May, Saenuri Party Representative Chung Hee-soo submitted a revision to regulate cybercrimes, but the bill is still pending at the National Assembly.

The city government said that, ultimately, improvements in the ticket sale system are needed to prevent scalping.

“The punishment for scalping needs to be strengthened, while multiple channels from which to buy tickets should be available to fans,” said Jo Jeong-hun, of the city’s Sports Facilities Management Center.

For this year’s postseason games, the only way to reserve tickets was through a single Internet shopping site, which frequently crashed because of heavy traffic.



BY LEE SEUNG-HO, SHIIN JIN [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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