South Korea

Question: Why is gaming addiction worse in South Korea?

Answer: Being the most wired country in the world, South Korea is the place where gaming addiction is most prevalent because almost every citizen has access to video games and thus has the opportunity to suffer from a gaming addiction.  Gaming addiction in South Korea is a serious problem because it is one of the most wired countries in the world.  This makes it easy for everyone in society to have a gaming addiction.  News stories from South Korea about gaming addiction are quite common.  Here are a few of the top stories about South Korea and gaming addiction:

  • In 2005, Seungseob Lee (Hangul: 이승섭) visited an Internet cafe in the city of Taegu and played StarCraft almost continuously for 50 hours or more. He went into cardiac arrest, and died at a local hospital after doctors were unable to treat him. A friend reported: "...he was a game addict seriously. We all knew about it and he couldn't stop himself." About six weeks before his death, his girlfriend, also an avid gamer, broke up with him, and his job also fired him.  
  • In 2009, Kim Sa-rang, a 3-month-old Korean child, died from malnutrition after both her parents spent hours each day in an internet cafe raising a virtual child on Prius Online, an online game popular in South Korea.

Seoul is considered the most-wired city in the world, but internet addiction is becoming an increasing concern. Controversy first began when marathon gaming sessions led to a few deaths recently as highlighted above.  Internet addiction is now recognized as a clinical condition in South Korea.  According to a new government survey, more than 66,000 South Korean teenagers are at risk of becoming internet addicts and suffering from a gaming addiction. They are categorized as “at-risk” and “high-risk.” Students can suffer withdrawal symptoms when offline, including depression and anxiety. Although the government survey showed a decrease in potential addictions, analysts warn that the survey is merely a reference rather than an exact measurement of online gaming addiction.  The severity of South Korea’s internet and gaming addiction has called for clinical treatment by the government and health officials, including electro-therapy by the  health officials and the government generally. Even with a wide array of treatments available, experts suggest that family involvement is the best cure and this makes common sense.  The power of South Korea’s internet continually evolves, with a community called "netizens." Critics often link the suicides of high profile celebrities and politicians to diatribes by the online groups and communities. Another of these growing subcultures have emerged on South Korea’s web as young nationalists monitor and report posts by North Korean sympathizers, a crime punishable up to 7 years in prison or a fine.  Teenagers ages fifteen and up are taking it upon themselves to become what they call “cyber guardians of national security" which could include almost anything.  Informants are rewarded a watch, an item getting popular among children and young people in South Korea. Nicknamed “the One Watch,” after “the One Ring” in “The Lord of the Rings,” the time piece cements the teens with purpose and meaning in their life.
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