South Korea Aims to Curb Gaming Addiction in Controversial Bill

By Allison McCabe 12/11/13

Despite opposition from the gaming industry, the country's parliament wants to tighten restrictions on Internet activity while classifying gaming as an addiction on par with drugs and alcohol.

Just a few of the alleged 470,000 addicts.
Photo via

In an effort to curb what it sees as a growing problem with gaming addiction, the South Korean parliament is considering passing a law that would significantly restrict internet gaming activity by changing the hours gamers are allowed to play while also imposing a tax on all online gaming revenue.

Currently, gamers are prohibited from playing from midnight to 6 am, but the new law would add three hours to the “mandatory shutdown,” changing it to 10 pm to 7 am. In addition, the bill would impose a one percent tax on the gaming industry’s revenue. This money would be put into a fund to help addicts. The new legislation, which is favored by 14 members of the ruling party, would take the added step of classifying internet gaming as one of the four major addictions alongside gambling, alcohol, and drugs.

According to Hwang Woo-yea, a Saenuri Party representative, “470,000 internet game addicts need to get medical treatment.” In a recent survey, 72.1% of South Koreans agree that online games are as addictive as drugs, alcohol, and gambling. Furthermore, a 2011 government study showed that 125,000 young people needed treatment for internet gaming or were “at risk” of developing addiction

The proposed law has met with resistance from the gaming industry, however, whose export income in 2012 exceeded the combined earnings of “Gangnam Style,” K-pop music, and other South Korean cultural exports. The Korea Internet and Digital Entertainment Association is concerned that such a bill would decimate the industry, and has said in a statement that "the 100,000 people employed in the game industry are not drugmakers.” Gaming enthusiasts are also speaking up; in an op-ed to the International New York Times, novelist Young-Ha Kim challenged the efficacy of the bill: “Would a law providing for treatment of Internet gaming addiction actually help players to recover?” 

Efforts to prevent the bill from passing include a constitutional court case and a signature campaign.

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Allison McCabe is the editor in chief of The Fix. She has written for LA Weekly, Village Voice, Junk: a literary fix, Ramshackle Review, Main Street Journal and others. Follow Allison on Twitter.