Understand Game Addiction Law in South Korea in 5 Minutes

In the western part of the world, Game Addiction Law is uncommon in the news. Gaming is big, but not part of our culture. However, in South Korea, Game Addiction Law is a topic that sparks interesting discussion among people directly or indirectly involved in gaming. These laws are affecting everybody involved in gaming and I think it is crucial for the rest of the gaming world to understand what is going on in Korea. First we take a look at the definition of the Game Addiction Laws.

A video game addict, as described by psychologists in South Korea have the following symptoms. Game addicts becoming withdrawn and tend to rage when denied from gaming, serious cases may cause addicts to not eat or sleep until they are allowed back to continue gaming.

In The Beginning

Prior to 2010, there were about 10 serious cases where people die from video game addiction. However, one case that forced the government to say “enough is enough was” after a 3 month old baby girl died from malnutrition in April 2010 because the parents were busy raising up virtual child online. The couple allegedly put the baby to bed and proceed to play a 10 hour long gaming session in the computer cafe at PC Bang.

A month later comes the birth of “Shutdown Law”, the first Game Addiction Law in effect in South Korea.

2010 – “Shutdown Law”

The “Shutdown Law” aka “Cinderella Law” was basically a law passed in 2010 that forced children 16 years old or below to stop playing online games in the wee hours of 12AM – 6AM. The implementation of Shutdown Law was rather simple, any gamer playing online game must register their account using a Korean social insurance number (similar to social security number in the US). Once the clock ticks 12AM, the Cinderellas are forced out of the games.

At the time of writing, the “Shutdown Law” is still in effect.

2012 – Selection System of Game Availability Period

To give parents more control over their children’s gaming addiction, the South Korean Government mandated the “Selection System of Games Availability Period” in 2012. The new law states that the “legal guardian (parents)” can set the game availability period for their children who is under 18 years old. The new law also affects 101 online games such as League of Legends and Starcraft 2. Any game company that has an annual revenue of $27 million and have more than 300 employees are required to implement this system into their games.

The “Selection System of Game Availability Period” works on top of the “Shutdown Law”. Parents can check the progress of their children are playing games via GameCheck.org.

2013 – Two New Proposed Laws

In 2013, Saenuri Party lawmakers (consist of parents, doctors and addiction clinics) proposed two laws to curb gaming addiction.

The first bill calls for the creation of an Internet Game Addiction Centre that will be used to treat online game addicts. Gaming companies are required to fork out 1% of their yearly annual sales revenue to fund the establishment of the centre.

The second bill categorized game addiction as one of the four major sources of addiction (alcohol, drug and gambling). Requesting government to have strict regulations over gaming companies.

Of course, these proposed bills caused an uproar in the gaming community. The bill gets ridiculed and questioned of its intention by the netizens in the gaming and the creative industry. A petition of more than 200,000 signatures was also signed to show how ridiculous the proposed bills are.

2014 – Game Addiction law to be Reformed

Following the Game Addiction Laws, some parents have argued that they have lost parental rights to give permission to their children to play game after midnight.  And because “Shutdown Law” has a loophole, approximately 30% of gamers aged 16 and below have used their parents ID with their full permission to continue gaming at night.

To curb the issue, the Culture and Gender Equality Ministry announced in September 1st, 2014 that children aged 16 and below may be able to play online games in midnight with the approval of their guardians. This will return the responsibility of child management back to the parents.

The new bill is likely to be proposed at the end of this year or next year.

What’s Going To Happen Now?

It seems the rest of Korea (non-gaming industry) have finally come to realization that gaming has become integrated into the cultures of South Koreans. Any kind of government intervention will affect the huge USD$9.16 billion gaming market in Korea. Other countries with no such laws (Germany and USA) welcome game developers from Korea to business migrate into their countries. Some developers have also expressed that they are not afraid to migrate out of Korea for the sake of avoiding the Gaming Addiction Laws if it ever come into serious effect.

Korean Game Developers’ Next Move

It is never the right move to assume that Game Addiction Law is going to resolve, even if there are signs of Korean government starting to lax on the Game Addiction Law. Korean game developers should prepare for the worst outcome. Actively targeting international gamers is becoming more important than ever in the online gaming industry of South Korea.

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