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South Korea has one of the fastest growing online gaming markets in the world. However, the country is also notorious for having a high number of people who are extremely addicted to video games and the internet. Surveys show that South Korea has an estimated 2 million people who have video game addiction. There has been reported cases of young people dying due to heart failure after several hours of nonstop playing.

A 2015 report shows that 1 out of 10 South Korean children aged 10 to 19 are addicted to the internet. A young man admitted to playing video games up to a staggering 88 hours a week. To remedy the rising number of South Korean youngsters who are addicted to games, the government enacted the Cinderella Act or the Shutdown Law. This act bans children from accessing the internet between midnight to 6am.

What is Video Game Addiction?

How can you tell if someone is addicted to video games? When a person plays video games for long periods of time, he or she may have an addiction. Video game addiction does not seem to be as serious as the addiction to drugs. That said, it can ruin someone's life. According to WebMD, video game addiction is a psychological disorder. A person who is addicted does not want to be disturbed. Many people who suffer from this will stop eating, studying, or interacting with people. They also tend to lose interest in finding a job when they grow older.

A child who refuses to stop playing games or gets angry when his game is confiscated should seek help. Without proper intervention, the child may end up with poor social skills, low self-confidence, and poor academic skills. Individuals who are addicted to games suffer from sleep deprivation, mood swings, and seizures.

Many teenage boys who are socially maladjusted find video games very appealing. Playing these games is a form of escape for these boys who find the real world too stressful. Many young people who feel pressured by their parents release their stress through video gaming. In the gaming world, these boys feel more in control. To them, it feels good to be a hero instead of being the weird kid in school.

Professional Gaming

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Despite the threat it poses to the South Korean society, the video game industry has generated a total of 8.49 billion U.S. dollars in 2013. It is expected to reach 10.04 U.S. dollars in 2017. Due to the predominance of video gaming in South Korea, this activity has now become a form of sport. Professional gaming, or esport, has a huge following in the country. Professional players are hired by companies and undergo extensive training every day. The tournaments are watched by millions of avid viewers around the country. Large prizes are awarded to winners.

Baby Starved to Death While Parents Played Video Games

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In 2010, the gaming history had changed forever after a baby starved to death while her parents played video games. Her parents left her at home unattended to play an online game called Prius. The three-month-old baby was found dead after the couple got home at 7am. Her name was Sarang, which ironically means love in Korean. She was extremely thin and weighed only 2.5 kilos. An empty bottle found beside her bed showed that she had been fed rotten milk. There were strands of hair found in her bottle.

On the day Sarang died, the father was interviewed by a police officer but he showed no emotion. The couple, who had met in a PC room, didn't know how to raise a kid. The mother had never gone to the hospital for regular checkups, something that a normal soon-to-be mom would do. The only time she went to the hospital was during her labor. Sarang was born prematurely, weighing only 2.7 kilos. The parents had been neglecting her and were too busy taking care of their virtual child in Prius.

Eventually, the parents showed remorse and guilt. The father said that he felt sorry for his kid and he wished she was happy in heaven now. During the court trial, it was found that the couple were having a second child. They promised that they would never play PC games again and would take care of their new baby.

In South Korea, people who commit crime due to mental illness are not punished severely. Gaming addiction had been considered as a mental illness after Sarang's death. The father was sentenced to one year in prison, while the mother didn't serve any sentence. The game Prius had lost its popularity and had permanently been shutdown in 2013, three years after the incident.

Sadly, Sarang was not the last child to die due to a parent's video game addiction. In 2014, a 2-year-old boy died from starvation after his father did not return home. He had reportedly been playing online games in a PC room for several days. The father disposed of the body in a garbage bag. He was unemployed while his wife worked as a factory worker in a different city.

How to Treat Video Game Addiction

Since many individuals with this type of addiction are socially maladjusted youngsters, their social anxiety and shyness have to be addressed. Enrolling these youngsters in a summer camp or a wilderness program allows them to face the real world without the distraction of video games. In such environment, they are forced to deal with real life situation. They learn to interact with real people face to face, something that they find very hard to do. Being exposed to real people will help them develop social skills and boost their self-confidence.

The principle of Operant Conditioning is also applied on the treatment for video game addiction. Operant Conditioning is the process of modifying a certain behavior through positive and negative reinforcement. In South Korea, the patient is asked to play a reprogrammed video game. As they play, a scary footage will randomly appear in the game. This will help the patient associate the negative reinforcement (the scary image) with the video game.


If the problem with video game addiction is not properly addressed, more and more children will grow up to be neglectful parents. I hope people will act more responsibly, particularly parents, so that such tragedy won't happen again. It is truly heartbreaking to see a baby die because of a parent's addiction to games. Video game addiction is far more serious than what some people believe.

© Rainy Kua 2016