South Korea’s Controversial Internet Games Addiction Bill

Law would regulate online gaming like gambling, drugs, and alcohol


SEOUL—The question is an increasingly controversial one in South Korea: Can Internet games be a source of addition similar to gambling, alcohol, and drugs?

The controversy has flared up since Rep. Shin Yee-jin of the ruling Saenuri Party proposed a bill on the so-called “four major addictions” last April.

The bill identifies Internet games as one of the major sources of addiction along with alcohol, gambling, and drugs. It seeks to collect a 1 percent tax from online gaming revenue to contribute to a fund that helps addicts. It also aims to extend the time period of banning game play under “mandatory shutdown” by adding three more hours. Since November 2011, the mandatory shutdown time has been midnight to 6:00 a.m.; the bill would extend it to 10:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.

Hwang Woo-yea, a representative of the Saenuri Party, told the National Assembly in October, “470,000 internet game addicts need to get medical treatment,” according to Chosun Daily. “We must save our society from evils of alcohol, drug, gambling, game addiction,” he said.

The Internet game industry and pro-gamers strongly oppose it. They reject calling online gaming addictive and say the bill will hurt the industry.

The CEO of the game company Blueside, Se-jeong Kim, 42, told Media Today, “workers in Internet game industry are worrying about the bill. Our society does not understand Internet games. I feel sad when I hear that games are anti-social as well as harm health.”

“I don’t think that it is bad for children to play games. Children should have various experiences. But it is important for parents to control the time their children play games.”said Kim.

Young-Ha Kim, a novelist, also doubted the effect of the bill. He thought that concern and consideration of family would be much better way to recover the addiction, rather than a mandatory treatment under the law. “Would a law providing for treatment of Internet gaming addiction actually help players to recover?” he wrote in the opinion (op-ed) for International New York Times.

He also talked about his experience that he had been addicted to online games and overcome it. “What would have happened if my wife had sent me to a treatment center? Without access to the Internet, I probably would have recovered–but I would have lost confidence in my ability to overcome the addiction on my own”, said he.

Korea Internet Digital Entertaiment Association (K-IDEA) began a signature campaign against the online game addiction bill on October 28. The number of signatures was more than 303,000 as of December 9.

The People’s Alliance for Children Health started its own signature campaign to support governmental regulation of online game addiction on November 21.

Jeong-ae Choi, 38, a mother of two children, told Media Today, “If someone is so addicted he cannot sleep or sustain everyday life, the government should regulate it.” She added, “Now, juveniles can play games with smart phones all day long. Playing games for more than 1 to 2 hours a day tends to disturb daily life.”

Meanwhile, according to a recent survey, 72.1 percent of South Koreans think that Internet games are as addictive as alcohol, gambling, and drugs. Almost 48 percent of Koreans agree with the bill in categorizing Internet games as one of the four major sources of addiction; 31 percent opposed the bill.

The survey was conducted by Research firm Real Meter on 1,000 men and women, November 13-14, with a margin of error is 3.81 percentage points.

The bill, if approved by legislators, will allow the state to supervise minors’ playing Internet games more strictly and to conduct preventive education against game addiction.

 


  • Ken

    Ridiculous! South Korea sound like communist China.

    Here’s the problem, IGNORANCE. The world and society is changing and the older generation has no “f”ing clue what to do about it because they just don’t understand. It amazes me that people go out of their way to dictate to others what they can and can’t do. Just because you don’t play video games doesn’t mean you have the right to change everyone else not like you.

    Studies have shown that gaming not only is not bad for you but increases problem solving ability. Japan has CLEARLY shown that violent video games DO NOT increase violence. I have a graph saved to my phone that shows despite video game use increase among the youth that violence among the youth has dropped!!!

    I have 2 children, 1 7 years old and the other 9. Both have their own gaming computers and are better with a computer than most adults I know. My son has a 6th grade reading level and he is in 3rd grade. He has had an advance reading level since they started testing him in 1st grade. This is mainly because I got him playing Wii at 3 years old and by the time he was 4 had his own xbox 360 with xbox live. Before he know how to read he learned to recognize letters in the menus on games and other dialogue in the games. In order for him to do certain things he had to recognize things like START, EXIT, CONTINUE…etc. My daughter is not as much into gaming but this is helping her now as well. Reading and gaming go hand in hand, AND there is a great reward for doing so. Older people simply would not understand nor do they care to.

    There are none so blind as those who will not see.

    • Dixon Keys

      There are the PROs & CONs to technology. The 1 aspect to technology that is frequently discussed: people nowadays get glued to their screens that they don’t socialize well with others or maintain eye contact. This may not be such a main issue if all your friends are the same. It’s like 2 people having lunch in a restaurant. The whole time they would not say a word to each other but instead be texting messages back and forth. May be a bit of an exaggeration but apparently a lot of young people are becoming anti-social. I know parents who even managed to keep TVs out of their home.

      Back in 2008, CBC Canada did a “Fifth Estate” documentary on Brandon Crisp, a young man from Barrie Ontario who was playing “Call of Duty” for hours against online opponents and eventually started staying up late and skipping school. Soon after his parents made the decision to disconnect his Xbox. Brandon ran away from home into a wooded area, got into an accident and died from his injuries. Of course this is just 1 case and not everybody who plays violent video games would turn into a murderer. It’s like the gun debate in the US. Are all the people who carry guns dangerous criminals? No. Should we keep guns off the street? Yes. When we have millions of guns on the street, there is always the possibility it would end up in the wrong hands or used inappropriately.

      In shooting video games, a player can lose or gain extra lives. Once you get good at it, you can simply be shooting at your enemies for hours while your ammunition keeps reloading. The point is that probably only 1% of the population who have mental issues and play video games frequently would start a killing spree. The risk is always there.

      A lot of educators would agree that keeping TV & portable electronic devices away from children until the age of 4 is a good thing. They need social interaction. Frequent screen changes would lead children to develop shorter attention span. Recently (Dec. 11, 2013) an advocacy group asked Fisher Price to pull a baby set product with iPad holder off the market because it encourages parents to leave kids alone staring at a screen discourages interaction with caregivers.

      Not all video games are bad. There are computer versions of conventional games like chess, card games like Solitaire, Hearts and gambling games like Poker or Blackjack that encourage people to use their problem-solving skills rather than manual dexterity by aiming weapons at an enemy all day. It is just teaching kids the wrong values they can resolve problems by taking it on other people.

      These kinds of discussion can go on forever. Just because we have a small number of people who get addicted to alcohol, should we ban it altogether? It would be like the Prohibition in the 1930s. The minute you try to enforce something by law, you created black-market for smugglers. Some young people do get addicted to video games. It is up to the parents to advocate responsible use by educating minors.

      I recently came across a video on YouTube featuring 2 people playing piano. The father Mario Ajero is a music teacher and the son is his student. They were playing on a Yamaha Disklavier with a little screen that displays music notation as they went along. Wonderful performances and what I’d call responsible use of technology. I’m not against electronic devices entirely as long as you use it for the benefits of learning. Personally I have an electronic piano keyboard at home. I get addicted to playing music everyday and the keyboard allows me to change sound effects that wouldn’t be possible on an acoustic piano. Otherwise I’d be online browsing specific sites that teach foreign languages. If you feel that having video games in your home are helping your kids with their reading, I have nothing against it. Personally I prefer to spend time on a piano keyboard when I’m bored like some people get into shooting games on computer. You can teach kids to be creative by posting their music performances online.

      Everybody would agree that computer technology was invented and developed during WWII for record-keeping and the Internet has been around for less than half a century. For the rest of history we’ve done without electronic devices. Don’t assume everything that is “new & improved” is better than what came before. And don’t forget in this world everything have pros & cons. What works for some people doesn’t necessarily work for everybody…


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