Will the opening of resort complexes equipped with hotels, shops and casinos bring investment and boost the economy?
The Korean government is betting it will.
It believes it can raise one.eight billion U.S. dollars from the casino industry.
Now, it's letting Korean companies get in on the bidding, a privilege once reserved for foreign investors.
Just last month, the Ministry of Strategy and Finance gave the green light for the development of two additional foreigner-only casino and resort complexes in the country's free economic zones.
It plans to select the two licensees by 2020.
Already, the country has attracted investors for two complexes on Yeongjongdo Island, located in the western city of Incheon -- the Korea-based Paradise Group and the multi-national casino firm Caesars Entertainment Corporation.
Both are seeking to be the Korean version of Singapore's Marina Bay Sands which raised 5.4-billion dollars in sales last year.
But if they're to survive against the massive casino and resort complexes in Macao and Okinawa, they'll have to overcome major challenges.
Currently, the Korean government bans its citizens from all casinos -- except one.
Kangwon Land in northeastern Gangwon-do Province, is the only casino Korean nationals can go to.
The other 16 are for foreigners only.
"The restriction placed on Korean nationals will affect the competitiveness of the Korean casino industry. The scale and amount of investment in the resort complexes is going to be smaller than in other neighboring countries."
Korea is capping investments in its complexes at 900-million dollars a year, a figure far below that of its rivals.
"There's also the "China risk factor" -- fears that investment may turn sour depending on the number of tourists visiting Korea.
Already, there are signs that the Chinese government may try to restrict its nationals from gambling both at home and abroad.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has been increasing efforts to root out gambling as part of an anti-corruption campaign.
Kim Ji-yeon, Arirang News."