South Korea will ban the practise of trading virtual game items from the second half of 2012, according to the Korean Times.

In a move designed to encourage students to "not waste time", The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism intends to initiate a new law to deal with virtual item sales in July.

“The main purpose of the games is for entertainment and should be used for academic and other good purposes,” said Kim Kap-soo, head of the ministry’s content policy division.

The ministry alleges that over 60 percent of items traded between players were initially obtained by the use of automated applications. Such programs "...are impinging in the way of on-line games’ negative reputation", according to the government agency.

The law will prohibit gamers from using programs that specifically allow in-game characters to accumulate items without the direct control of the player. Any future such farmers in South Korea will face a maximum 50 million won fine (NZD $55,000) and potentially up to five years in jail.