Over the past few weeks, the western media picked up on the latest trend in Korea–the alarming rise of addiction to online gaming, particularly among youths. BusinessWeek published an article on September 11 highlighting this rising problem. The magazine highlighted the results of a government survey reporting that over 540,000 Koreans between the ages of nine and 39 are so addicted to the Internet that they need counseling to curb their addiction. That’s about one in 88 Koreans, a staggering number. Last week the Korea Times reported that the Korean government will introduce "No Internet Day" one day per week at Korean schools to counteract this growing addiction. The problem is apparently so bad in Korea that Internet addiction has eclipsed alcohol, gambling, and drugs. Much of the addiction stems from the prevalance of online gaming, which is much more widely available in Korea at a higher less of sophistication than in the United States. The government estimated that youths spend at least 15 hours per week online. Some youths spend so much time online that some have died from sleep depravation, starvation, or emaciation.
Experts concur that gaming is addictive and that men (and boys) are more prone to play video games. I often see students walking the streets of Seoul, but more often than not, the students are girls. I have often wondered why. I have suspected that female Korean students are more apt to socialize with each other in public settings, such as in public shopping areas. I also believe that male Korean students are more likely to head directly to their local PCbang (computer room) to entertainment themselves with online games; hence, fewer of them are on the streets once school lets out. It’s just a hunch, but the news of the rising problem of Internet addiction among Korean youths confirms to me that too many are heading from school to the PCbang for gaming.
I wonder if PCbangs will seen in the same light as street corner drug dealer? Acutally, I wonder what it is about the PCbang that makes it so popular, besides being relatively cheap entertainment. (Actually….after visiting few PCbangs and paying about $2 an hour, it really bothers me that it costs something crazy like $10 for 15mins at SeaTac. I think someone need to rework the optimal pricing structure on that one.) I think there must be a social aspect to the PCbang…otherwise, why don’t you just play online at home (assumption being that most Koreans of that age have internet access at home)? I think I’m just as bothered by the stories that I hear about in the US. Same type of stories, and I think it will only get worse as broadband/wimax spread. And the entry price point is pretty low too. Xbox, Playstation, or PC. Pick your poison.
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