Authorities say the 33-year-old broke into a coin exchange machine with a screwdriver and made off with nearly 800,000 won ($740) on April 12. They said he admitted to other thefts, 12 total, committed since March 2017. The man reportedly used the same method of breaking into the machines and stole about $4,349, which he allegedly used on living and entertainment expenses.
Police tracked him down after finding his fingerprints at the crime scene, the Korea Herald reported. They then used his cell phone to locate him at an internet cafe in the area.
Claw machine games are apparently booming in South Korea thanks to people looking for a quick thrill for a small amount of money. The number of registered machine shops rose nationwide from 147 to 880 between August and December, according to the country’s Game Rating and Administration Committee (via the Korea Herald). The statistics did not include countless stand-alone machines set up near convenience stores, restaurants, or subway stations.
Some experts attribute the rising popularity of claw machines to a down economy. South Korea’s economy is expected to slow to 2.5% this year, the Korea Herald reported. Youth unemployment reached its highest rate since 2000 in 2015 at 9.2%. Artificial intelligence firm Daum Soft told the Korea Herald the claw machines offer a small sense of achievement to young people in a highly competitive society at a time when their disposable income is shrinking.