A pair of policies were announced yesterday that will attempt to block underaged access to online computer games after midnight in light of the rising problem of video game addiction among youth.
In what’s being touted as the "nighttime shutdown," the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism hopes the new measures they have implemented will help eradicate video game addiction among teenagers.
According to the ministry, underaged users will be forced out of gaming sessions when online access automatically shuts down as soon as the clock strikes midnight.
. . .
Gamers will be given three options for the six hour black-out period --midnight-6 a.m.,1-7 a.m., and 2-8 a.m.
The "slowdown" scheme is currently being tested out on a total of four role playing games, including the hugely popular "Dungeon & Fighter," and "Dragon Nest," and will be extended to 19 role playing games.
The 19 RPG titles represent approximately 79 percent of the domestic online game market.
And an editorial from the latter:
Korea’s game industry is so competitive, online game exports earn 50 times that of the film sector. The good always comes with the bad, however. Korea has high percentage of online game addicts. Teenagers usually return home late from attending academic institutes and can easily meet up with a game partner at night. As a result, many of them stay in front of their PCs late into the night. Despite the government’s proposed measures to limit their access late at night, addicts could take advantage of their parents’ social security numbers to gain access. Parent attention and care alone are not enough to prevent their addiction to games. Thorough government measures that can effectively prevent game addiction are urgently needed.
Some people are saying this isn't compatible with a free country, and others are asking where the parents that kids are spending so much time with computer games. I can see the validity in both statements: to the former, the government's attempts at a strong grip on that fast, cheap, ubiquitous internet have been well-documented; to the latter, this is a country where kids spend a lot of time out of the house, and where a hands-off approach with young people contradicts the control parents exercise later. I would like to point out, though, that this won't be an issue for many. The rigors of Korean education mean when high school students are awake past midnight, it's usually to pass the time in cram schools or to study on their own at home or in dorms. Elementary and middle school students at my former hagwon were routinely kept past midnight, and there have been measures over the past few years to impose a curfew on these cram schools.
The use and overuse of online games in Korea is commmensurate with the ubiquity of fast, cheap internet. The image of internet addiction, of a guy sitting in a smoky PC room or alone in a dark apartment, isn't really fair to the social function computer games play for many of the country's young people. I made that point in a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette piece last month:
When students play computer games all day on a Sunday, it's not quite the same as vegging out in front of the TV as we're used to it. First of all, most kids play with their friends, whether in person or online, so there's an element of social interaction. Second, most people don't play at home, so kids at least get out of the house (and into a smoky PC bang, but still).
There are a lot of reasons for the interest in gaming, but a big one is that it fits a lifestyle dictated by work and, for students and business people, sedentary activity. Moreover, Koreans enjoy technology and computers; playing games is still doing something, and something with some secondary practical applications. You won't find the longest-working people in the OECD doing a lot of nothing.
That so many children are considered "vulnerable" to internet addiction owes to so many children having access to the internet and, thanks to those limitations on their social calendars, not much else.
I'm not a tech-blogger, and I'm certainly not an authority on internet culture in South Korea, but the way I see it I don't believe this will be treated as alarming by many. The demands of the Korean education system will keep most minors in line, and this measure aimed at a selection of online games will attempt to get at the young people who, for whatever reason, don't have the same pressures. I'll be vague by writing that education is still highly-valued in South Korea, and I don't think many will argue with a plan to focus students on school, even at the expense of what some might consider the "freedom" to game around the clock.