SEOUL, Feb. 27 (UPI) -- South Korean officials say they're cracking down on fixing of professional sports games in baseball, soccer, basketball, volleyball and motorboat racing.
The Los Angles Times reported the nation's Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has announced several "no-mercy" measures for brokers, players and coaches that include lengthy prison terms and lifetime bans from sports for violations. At the same time, prosecutors have offered up to $90,000 in rewards to those who report match-fixing attempts.
On Saturday, prosecutors in the city of Daegu arrested a 26-year-old betting broker they say paid off two professional baseball players to intentionally walk batters, affecting game outcomes, in exchange for payments of $2,660 per game. Last year, baseball attracted 6.8 million fans in the nation of 50 million, the Times said.
Authorities say the tough penalties are necessary as South Korea prepares to host the 2018 Winter Olympics.
"We sincerely apologize to the nation for failing to prevent such terrible scandals," Culture Minister Choi Kwang-sik said at a recent news conference.
Last year, authorities imposed lifetime bans on 47 soccer players accused of taking bribes in exchange for manipulating match outcomes. Two of the players later committed suicide, the Times said.
This year, authorities have investigated 15 professional women's volleyball players accused of game-fixing after two of them admitted involvement in schemes in which they made deliberate mistakes to alter final scores, with each receiving up to $4,500 per match payment, prosecutors said.
In the past, fans have responded to alleged match-fixing by boycotting sports events.