Korea Treats Addiction With Cats, Hedgehogs
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South Korea has implemented the world's most adorable addiction treatment. The government-funded Korea Internet Addiction Center (KIAC) is giving out "animal companions" to those diagnosed with Internet addiction in the online gaming-obsessed nation, to help them learn to form bonds with living beings. The project, which began in May, is based on a US report that animal-assisted therapy could help people suffering from physical or mental problems—including addiction. “We give out the pets for free and also provide 200,000 won for food and vaccinations. There are choices of animals other than dogs or cats, such as rabbits and hedgehogs,” says KIAC researcher and counselor Seo Bokyung. Applicants meet with a counselor before receiving their pets, and sign a pledge not to abuse or abandon the animals. After receiving their pets, they must hand in a monthly journal to the center about their relationship with their animal, and receive monthly visits from KIAC officials. “Animals help addicts turn their attention from the Internet and focus on the living being in front of them. They can build relationships with the animals through communication, exchange of emotions, and by taking care of them," says Seo Bo-kyung. "Such practices on forming and maintaining relationships will also help their human relationships, as addicts usually have problems interacting with people as well.”