Lifestyle & Belief

South Korea takes on web addiction


The culture of online gaming in South Korea has led to internet addiction becoming a serious problem. More than 80% of South Koreans have access to broadband Internet, and they also enjoy the highest connection speeds in the world according to the Daily Maverick.


Chung Sung-Jun

We know that South Koreans love the internet.

They love the internet so much that last month the government declared all schools were to “go digital" within a matter of years.

But their love for computers has a downside, sometimes a very serious one — one that's even been labeled a deadly disease in the world of online gaming. 

It's called internet addiction, and it's a "clinical condition" here. 

Enter rehab for computer nerds.

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South Korea's latest project is a clinic that treat web addicts. There are family camps set up outside the city that offer a range of traditional outdoor activities like making tie-dye T-shirts, playing badminton and taking walks in nature — anything that will get these people away from the internet.

But this project is not so much a cure for full-blown addicts as it is a viable way to prevent the disease from taking hold of vulnerable populations. Most patrons are children who aren’t officially addicts yet but are starting to show early signs of the unhealthy habit. 

Web addiction is not a new phenonmenon in South Korea, especially when it comes to online gaming. There have been cases of online gamers who died from hours of non-stop gaming. A few years ago there was a case of 24-year-old Kim Kyung-jae who collapsed and died after 86 hours of continuous gaming in the city of Kwangju. 

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In 2007, the government started a boot camp to cure web addiction. And, now parliament is proposing a "Cinderella Law," which would ban teenagers from playing online games after midnight.

But many (mostly the game manufacturers) argue that the law is a bandaid solution when the underlying problem is the social culture that revolves around gaming, according to the BBC.

In 2010 it was recorded that about 2 million South Koreans, nearly one in 10 online users were web addicts. 

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(Saanya Gulati contributed to this post.)