Some in the pachinko industry welcome the attention provided by western media. Masatoshi Takahama, CEO of Kinbasha Gaming International said that his company was “thrilled with the increasing prevalence of pachinko in western media. This enhanced awareness about our multi-billion industry is a major benefit to our efforts as we continue to fulfill our strategic growth initiatives in Japan and raise capital in the US markets.”
While legal business interests may be present in the pachinko industry, it has oft been reported that organized crime families (a.k.a. the Yakuza) run the whole deal, reaping windfall profits from this highly crisis resilient Japanese habit.
In fact the Yakuza are not among the world’s most camera-shy crime syndicates, so we know much about this connection based on their own admission.
Curiously enough, Japanese consensus concerning the ownership of pachinko parlors indicates that Koreans (or Japanese of Korean descent) are the true masters of this trade.
There are about half a million Koreans in Japan, whose forebears ended up there mostly due to the latter country’s colonial past. Most of them maintain close ties with their former homeland, often reflecting the north-south political divide of the Korean peninsula within their communities.
Consequently it is alleged that about a third of the pachinko scene is run by “north” Koreans, another third by “south” Koreans and the rest by Japanese and even Chinese interests.
While the exact relationship between legitimate businesses, the Yakuza and the Koreans is hard to assess, the presence of North Korean sympathizers in the pachinko industry brings a whole new concern to the table.
Considering that hundreds of millions of dollars find their way to North Korea through these pachinko owners, it is tempting to ask just how much Japanese money is being spent to subsidize the Kim dynasty because Japanese gambling laws create prohibit most other forms of gaming?
Perhaps by allowing locals to play online casino in Japan the government could reduce the amount of money going into pachinko and consequently to Korea. Of course, considering the vested interests in the status quo, that would take some steel balls.