http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/d ... -addiction
South Korean MPs consider measures to tackle online gaming addiction
Wednesday 11 December 2013 07.26 EST
Associated Press in Seoul
Bill has won support from parents, religious groups and doctors but has alarmed lucrative games industry.
South Korea's parliament is considering a law that would classify online gaming as potentially antisocial addiction alongside gambling, drugs and alcohol.
The bill has won support from parents, religious groups and doctors but has alarmed the internet industry and enraged gamers. The legislation includes provisions to limit advertising, while a separate bill would take 1% of the gaming industry's revenue to create a fund to curb addiction.
The uproar over the legislation highlights conflicting social and economic priorities in South Korea. Internet entrepreneurs are prized as a source of innovation, but conservative politicians and many parents say online obsessions are taking a growing toll on schooling, families and workplaces.
"We need to create a clean Korea free from the four addictions," Hwang Woo-yea, an MP in the ruling party, said in a recent speech.
The legislative assault, backed by 14 ruling party lawmakers, is the latest phase in South Korea's culture wars. Headline-grabbing incidents such as the death by starvation of the infant daughter of two online gamers have fuelled a moral panic. A law passed in 2011 that bans gaming between midnight and dawn for anyone under age 16 is being challenged at South Korea's constitutional court.
"There is a huge prejudice that gaming is harmful," said Lee Byung-chan, an attorney involved in the constitutional court case. "Games are as harmful as alcohol, drugs and gambling, that's the prejudice."
Game companies have taken exception to being lumped together with drugs, alcohol and gambling, and say the bill is a death sentence for their industry. "The 100,000 people employed in the game industry are not drugmakers," said the Korea Internet and Digital Entertainment Association, which represents game companies.
Online gaming has become a significant export industry. In 2012, MapleStory and other titles earned more cash from abroad for South Korea than the YouTube sensation Gangnam Style, K-pop music, movies and all other cultural exports combined.
The government started studying internet game addiction in 2011. Its latest annual study found that 2% of South Koreans aged 10-19, or about 125,000 people, needed treatment for excessive online gaming or were at risk of addiction.
"My parents tried to stop me but I kept playing. Even the government wouldn't have stopped me," said Shin Minchul, a 21-year-old college student as he recounted his heavy gaming past.
At elementary school Shin bonded with his friends at an internet cafe playing StarCraft for three to four hours a day after classes finished. He dreamed of becoming one of the professionals with corporate sponsorship whose games are broadcast live on cable TV to audiences numbering in the millions. By high school, he was playing World of Warcraft for up to 15 hours straight.
Shin's rank at school plunged from the top to bottom half. "When I tried to think more broadly about my life, playing games wasn't that important," Shin said. "Then I lost interest."
Supporters of the bill say cases like Shin's show why curbs are needed. Kim Min-sun, a mother of two, said online games took children away from real life. "Without online games, kids would talk to their mother and play," she said.
Others say South Korea should do more to address the factors behind online game addiction, such as hyper-competitive education and a dearth of other leisure options for teenagers. South Korea had the lowest percentage of students who reported being happy at school in 2012 among 65 countries surveyed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Articles about video games and gamers.
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