Game Developers Protest New “Gaming Addiction Law”

International game developers, politicians, and hundreds of thousands of South Korean gamers are protesting a newly proposed law that would treat computer and video games as addictive materials in the same category as drugs, alcohol, and gambling. An online petition against the law, which now has more than 280,000 signatures, criticizes new regulations that would tax game company profits by 1% in order to pay for game addiction treatment programs, among other new requirements.

Netizens mocked the regressive attitude of the National Assembly Members who proposed the law, pointing out that the Park Geun-hye administration is happy to support cultural exports like K-pop as part of her campaign for a “creative economy”, but choose to criminalize the Korean game industry, a similarly creative industry that is more than twice as valuable, (the Korean game industry made USD $9.2 billion in 2012, compared with USD $3.9 billion for the music industry).

From Economy Today:

“Computer games are regarded as drugs in Korea?”…Internationally criticized at G-Star

Korea’s “Gaming Addiction Law” received international attention at this year’s G-Star, an annual trade show for the video and computer game industry held at BEXCO in Busan.

korea-gaming-addiction-law

Foreign game developers who visited G-Star criticized the law with various arguments. The developer of “World of Tanks”, Wargaming’s CEO Victor Kislyi said, “Is it a wise decision to regulate chocolate just because some people consume it too much?”

He also added, “Korea is internationally known not only for corporations such as Samsung and Hyundai, but also for being the mecca of online gaming. My home country Belarus is a small country with only 10 million people but at least 75 million gamers became aware of the country due to games.”

Sony Online Entertainment’s Matthew Higby, a director for “PlanetSide 2”, said “There are many gamers in Korea but the correlation between gaming and crime is very weak. Whenever I assert that gaming does not increase violence, I use the case of Korea as an example.” Blizzard Entertainment’s Senior Game Designer David Kim said, “As far as I know, there is no such regulation on gaming in America.”

They were proud of their work as game developers, and expressed sympathy for the internationally recognized Korean developers. They were puzzled by the idea that computer gaming will be regarded as a target for regulation along with drugs, gambling and alcohol in Korea.

An even more eye-catching response came from Germany. The state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) in Germany hosted a seminar for the Korea-Germany game industry and suggested Korean developers relocate to Germany since Germany does not regulate gaming. They explained their plan to support Korean developers with 100,000 Euros per project if they set up foreign branches in Germany.

The state of NRW commented, “The German government supervises alcohol and drug addicts but does not classify gaming as a source of addiction. If you develop games in Germany, it would also be easier to gain access to the international market.”

In response, a Korean game developer said, “If Korea keeps treating games like this, the offer will become very attractive. As long as circumstances permit, we can move anywhere in the world.”

The “Gaming Addiction Law” that puts computer games in the same regulation category as drugs, gambling and alcohol was proposed by the Saenuri Party’s lawmaker Shin Ui-jin, a psychiatrist. However, other psychiatrists argue that gaming cannot be classified as a source of addiction.

National Assembly Member Shin Ui-Jin (center) has led the effort to strengthen regulations on games, photo from a National Assembly hearing on the law.

National Assembly Member Shin Ui-Jin (center) has led the effort to strengthen regulations on games, photo from a National Assembly hearing on the law.

In an editorial in the Hankyoreh on November 14th, Professor Lee Yeong-sik at the department of psychiatry of Chung-ang University Hospital claimed that there is lack of medical evidence to lump gaming in with other addiction sources. He said, “Among young people who visited the clinic thinking gaming is their problem, there have been very few cases where gaming alone was indeed their main problem. It is not a wise approach to lump gaming in with drugs, alcohol and gambling for regulation.”

Comments from Nate:
jmg3****:

If I’m an owner of a computer game company, I would flee to a foreign country instead of being treated like a drug offender in Korea.

chun****:

No wonder they say your household will go under once the hen starts squawking…..

이유수:

This is truly an international shame. Not only nationally but even internationally shameful… Germany wants to help Korean game developers relocate to their country because they know it will bring good money to them. I don’t understand why Korea is treating computer games like drugs and trying to put a leash on the profitable industry.

jk-y****:

The president has emphasized the importance of “an economy based on creativity”. Is this all the Chicken Brain [Saenuri] Party can come up with? By the same token, why don’t they just ban cigarettes and alcohol and even regulate obesity by law?

taew****:

Korea suffers because of an incompetent National Assembly member.

sung****:

Who is that lawmaker who blames computer games for their children’s failures rather than their own parenting? It is so pathetic of the government to hammer good game developers and kill off the remaining software industry in this country. And then they talk about an economy based on creativity and raising 100,000 high school kids skilled in programming…..

신경현:

ㅡㅡ Oh sure. Let’s ban Kakao Talk because there are many Kakao addicts. Let’s ban Facebook because there are many Facebook addicts. Let’s ban alcohol because there are many incidents caused by drunk people. Let’s ban cars because there are many car accidents. Let’s ban celebrities because their fangirls and fanboys waste time following them. Let’s ban TV because there are people who spend all day watching TV. Let’s ban luxury goods because there are women who struggle to save money to buy them. Let’s ban men because they are potential sex offenders. Let’s ban women because they are potential honeypots. Let’s ban the military because there are many suicide cases in the military. Let’s ban seawater because it has been contaminated by the broken nuclear plants. Let’s ban air because it has been contaminated by exhaust gas. How are these different from the government’s argument for gaming regulation???

김동규:

60% of Korea’s cultural content exports are from the game industry, not K-pop or dramas, he he.

wkd1****:

What a march of idiots…… Games are like drugs? Ke ke.

antm****:

Most women don’t like computer games so they don’t care whether the game industry is an important part of the Korean cultural exports… Especially housewives have no reason to oppose the law. Think of the women around you. Most of them don’t like to have boyfriends who play computer games. You know why it was a female lawmaker who proposed the law. Women have no problem even if the whole game industry disappears.

정재훈:

That idiotic bitch from the Saenuri Party said something foolish and caused this whole ruckus. It is a critical time when the government and the Saenuri should be managing their image well but they are digging their own graves. Make no mistake. You guys were able to come this far only because the Democratic Party has done so many retarded things.

From The Korea Herald:

More than 200,000 netizens sign petition against “Gaming Addiction Law”

By November 8th, more than 200,000 netizens signed the petition of the Korean Internet and Digital Entertainment Association (K-IDEA) opposing the Gaming Addiction Law.

According to the Kyunghyang Shinmun, the K-IDEA issued a statement on their homepage, calling for scrapping the Gaming Addiction Law, which led to more than 220,000 netizens signing on to a petition in support.

About 90 member companies of the K-IDEA, such as Nexon, Neowiz Games, NC Soft, Net Marble, Wemade and NHN Entertainment also supported the petition by putting up relevant information on their own homepages.

From 14th to 17th, they will also collect signatures for the petition at G-Star 2013 held at BEXCO in Busan.

National Assembly Member Jun Byung-hun gave a speech at G-STAR defending the game industry and criticizing the new law. Jun then signed the petition.

National Assembly Member Jun Byung-hun gave a speech at G-STAR defending the game industry and criticizing the new law. Jun then signed the petition.

and got some photos

and got some photos

The ruling party revealed their plan to designate computer games as one of the four main sources of addiction along with drugs, alcohol and gambling and enact the “Gaming Addiction Law”, which will be administered by the Ministry of Health and Welfare. In opposition to this plan, K-IDEA launched their petition on the 28th of October.

Comments from Nate:

lany****:

Addiction? Ke ke ke ke ke ke. Hey, get rid of the casino in Jeong-seon first! There are many people who gambled away their family fortune there. These freaking lawmakers don’t know their priorities.

savi****:

Things like this happen because those who cannot catch up with the times are in power. This is not the 1960s or 1970s. How long do you think we can get by selling only tangible goods? They always talk about how our country has only human resources. Yet, they try to kill the industries where human resources alone account for the greatest value (cartoons, games, programs, books, etc.) Our country’s bigwigs must be stuck in the 60s or 70s. No wonder neighboring countries are treating Korea like a punching bag.

xeno****:

It’s nothing but a trick to collect taxes by designating games as a source of addiction~ And maybe they will support psychiatrists and get money from them. This kind of politics should be plowed under. Young well-prepared politicians with righteous and law-abiding attitudes should replace the old. At least, it will be better than now because those dotards fail to catch up with the times and make regressive policies.

rune****:

Stop bullshitting. Do they know how much money the game industry makes? GTA 5 alone generated a revenue of more than a billion dollars. Our government is supposed to support the game industry but what? Regulate? What nonsense. Those bastards who don’t even know what’s good and bad, yet they occupy high positions and make retarded policies… Cartoons and games are potentially very profitable industries that need governmental support. But regulate what? Maybe those officials don’t know what they are doing because they just got their positions thanks to their old school ties. It seems they don’t even realize that Korea doesn’t have oil or significant natural resources like other countries. If you graduated from top universities, shouldn’t you at least know that such retarded policies will have great adverse effects on the nation’s development? Damn, these bookworm bastards don’t seem to know what’s really important…..Their stupid policies would make a developed country go backward. They believe they just need to keep corporations like Samsung running, tsk tsk.

최샛별:

What are they doing when the game industry significantly contributes to the Korean economy? They will make many game industry employees lose their jobs. PC-bangs all over the country will collapse. Now I can understand why Nexon moved to Japan ^^ What a retarded government.

hunt****:

They just want to rip off money from the game industry, Ke ke ke; It’s like “Pay the fee if you want to sell drugs here.” Such thugs.

mang****:

MOGEF is not the real schemer for this. MOGEF also existed during the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Mu-hyun administrations but they didn’t do things like this. What do you think is the philosophy of the current government? They see citizens as a target to control. They also enjoy making deals with the chaebols under the table. The only industry that can’t be touched by the chaebols in Korea is the game industry. They started out as small companies and have successfully reaped lots of profits. They have become semi-conglomerates who can potentially challenge the chaebols. Chaebols want to prevent this by colluding with the government, creating policies with the excuse of protecting citizens’ welfare. Does anyone still think we chose the right president?

ksjc****:

Why don’t they regulate Go and Xiangqi as well? Playing them consumes so freaking much time.

ball****:

It should rather be drugs, alcohol, gambling, and golf, you fools.

조학동:

How will game developers, managers and other game-related employees get by then? The media depicts K-pop as a big cultural content export but it can’t even be compared to the scale of games. The government seems too thoughtless. Instead of making a fuss with the Gaming Addiction Law, go get rid of those trash idols who can’t sing. They give kids a false hope that you can be a singer even if you can’t sing.

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  • commander

    It would be better to add an article advocating the enactment of “Game Addiction Law” for a more heated debate.

    The game industry’s vehement opposition over the regulatory move that could cause dampen a flourishing business and diminish its profit, is understandable.

    But, the industry’s claim that the legislation criminalizes the entire game players and game developers appears to make an logical exaggeration thus hardly persuasive, without citing concrete articles of the law and providing detailed grounds for how the law could negatively affect the game industry.

    There exist a heap of reports that game-addicted youngsters, getting oblivious to reality, committed crimes and displayed anti-social disorders.

    This social malaise, of course, should not be blamed soley on online games. But with so much teens left out of parental oversight–because families broke down, or parents are both working for a living etc., it is clear to me that some youths that are diagnosed with severe addiction-induced psychological disorders needs to be treated by state-backed medical centers. We need to keep some troubled adolescents back on track to learn a balanced life.

    But that doesn’t mean that games that get those teens to become addicted should be stigmatized as anti-social, or evil. Rather other game users can enjoy the games and stay controlled of themselves, balancing gaming and other activities.

    The concept of socially responsible corporations (SRC) emerged after it is recognized that profit-maximizing corporate aim has been taken a great toll not only on the environment but also on members of society that has been custormers of firms.

    The SRC can be extended to the game industry as well. The game industry needs to recognize their sustainable growth lies not only in creating more original, real life-like virtual worlds, but also in helping oversee their side effects for some vulnerable teens.

  • GG

  • A Gawd Dang Mongolian

    I can see why some consider gaming to be an addiction. Some people who play MMOs don’t really know when to stop, but that’s only a small portion of the entire gaming community.

    This feels more like a cash grab at a lucrative industry than an attempt to ‘reach out’.

    • Boris

      That’s my thought exactly.

    • bigmamat

      It’s clearly a “sin” tax.

  • bigmamat

    Damn. Conservatives in Korea are just as scary as they are in the U.S.

    • Chris Redfield

      Oh cute, another brainwashed Liberal.

      Are you missing the part where Bloomberg in New York City is attempting to regulate salt content and Styrofoam cups? The Size of Soda Drinks? Who can buy cigarettes?

      “Conservatives” or whatever you label those opposing your idiotic ideology tend to seek less regulations and interference in individual lives via the states directives.

      Limiting government is the answer.

      • lonetrey / Dan

        “Brain-washed liberal” seems like such a cliche thing to say though. :/

        Not that I don’t agree with your points.

        • Chris Redfield

          Combating a Generalization with a Generalization, simplistic and childish I know. Appreciate your sentiments.

      • Boris

        ‘Conservatives’ differ from nation to nation. I do think some government interference is needed. As we have seen in the UK the press, who only answered to themselves, repeatedly broke the law and invaded people’s privacy for news stories and even interfered with police work. Some even colluded with the police. Then there is health care, different systems in Europe and America. Different outcomes.

        Either way, This law being passed is stupid. I do understand the compulsion some people have with games, but it games are used as an escape from reality, so really there are other issues these people have rather than ‘gaming addiction’.

        • Chris Redfield

          Agreed. I was merely pointing out what I feel is the atypical approach to labeling American conservatives as ‘Evil’ as the media complex is insistent on characterizing, with others regurgitating when critical thinking is inconvenient. Limited Government conservatives in America, as was referenced here, would not typically be in support of regulating yet another industry at the expense of further capital creation by said industry.

          As a Gamer Myself I’m inclined to agree with the escape from reality. It is but another form of taking the mind off the present, a release from the stresses of daily life. People obsess (as mentioned by the Korean Poster) over reality shows and gossip about celebrities to avoid their mundane existence in reality, yet no legislation is passed to regulate the behavior of these groups.

          The state attempting to regulate behavior is the core issue in my opinion.

          • Boris

            I think the problem in the US is the fact that the media lines (from the outside looking in that is, I am not American) are clear. It is either left or right, and some are further on one side than others.

            I am currently in China where I met two Americans, one who labeled herself liberal and the other admitted he is somewhat conservative. The former found it hard to adjust to such a culture while the latter didn’t. It was down to the latter knowing where he is and adapting while the former not.

            Regarding the issue here, the government is basically trying to get a slice of the ‘pie’ here. If they really wanted to help then they would encourage people to get help, make seeking help acceptable, etc. instead of sigamtising gamers and making them retreat even more. It seems like you could be playing MMO 24/7 and that would ‘look’ better than someone going and asking for help from a shrink.

      • bigmamat

        I didn’t say they were evil I said they were scary. I don’t believe in evil. Scary yes, because conservatives are the people who are so damned worried about what people do in their bedrooms. If that’s less interference then I’m wondering what you consider intrusive. Conservatives are only concerned about too much government when it comes to regulating business and taxes. They seem to have no qualms when it comes to regulating people’s personal behavior. That is until one of their kids turn up gay or they get caught somewhere with their own pants down.

    • Hwang Dongseong

      This law is not related to “Small gov” or “Big gov”. It’s related to sane or insane. North European gov is bigger than Korea gov, but they don’t do insane behavior like this.

      Game industry does not have bribed gov officers unlike old manufacture industry such as Samsung or Hyundae. Korea gov tries to show how specific industry can break down if they don’t give money to politician.

  • Yaminah Jamison

    Pretty much anything can be made as an addiction. Doesn’t have to have a physical substance (like nicotine, cocaine, etc) to be addicting so…… why not regulate everything else? Oooh why not regulate horny dudes who look for prostitutes since they want sex all the time!?!?! Or regulate rapists, molestors, etc!?!?!?!?!?!?!

  • Guest23

    They shouldn’t jumped to conclusions like this new law, any type of addiction is serious but they should find the “Why’s” to each problem, find a middle ground to have some kind of help for this problem, in retrospect moderation, on how long you play and how you view this as a life or a hobby.

  • commander

    The watch list of items that needsmonitoring and management can be stretched to head off pernicious effect spreading to some people.

    Arguably, the most wired country in the world, South Korea provides best access to online games for less self disciplined people, particularly adolescents.

    This means nowhere has more game addiction-causing social problems than South Korea has.

    Accordingly, it makes no sense that some game firm representatives said it is inconceivable for games to be labelled as regulatory objects.

    Their remarks must come from anxiety over possible profit reduction in South Korea where experts say any prototype games are pre-released to teat waters for new games.

    The threat of the relocation of the gaming business to other countries from South Korea, in a bid to evade what they see as a move to run counter to President Park’s economic slogan of “creative economy,” will not be bought by the public.

    After all, all game developers are well aware of the importance of the South Korean market: Not only a litmus test for new releases but also a gateway to advance into the Chinese marekt where still governmental regulations are routines.
    The South Korean government should not be daunted by intereated parties, including professional games, game developers and distributors, in setting down the guidelinea to rescue those who submerge in game addictions or struggled but failed to keep afloat.

  • Eric0912

    Did they ban the entire business, or are we still talking about a tiny regulation, a 1 percent tax …? Not sure that I agree with the idea, but the response seems a bit exaggerated. I hope they’re fighting the bill suggesting the possibility to delete and censor online comments as hard. Plus, considering the 25-million-and-counting election tweets, the government doesn’t seem all that old-fashioned after all.

  • David

    This is a strange position to take by a country that does not generally put a lot of money, effort or time into dealing with psychological problems. It is even weirder that it was proposed by a psychiatrist Is he saying there is a physical addiction (which is what psychiatry normally deals with, as opposed to psychology which works on the non-biological touchy-feely crap) associated with gaming, like with drugs? When they say it is an addiction, they seem to be saying it is excuse for bad behavior. “Oh he can’t help the drinking and whoring, he is addicted”. Sorry, but being addicted to something does not excuse you. I AM happy to see they are not simply ignoring the problem (like they actually do with the other three “recognized addictions”).

    • bigmamat

      Exactly. Seems to me there is a lot of whoring going in in SK. Not to mention a hell of a lot of drinking. I don’t know much about the drug scene because most of the news you get about that are celebrities being made an example out of when they get caught. Otherwise I don’t know how much the average SK indulges in other forms of drug taking. I know they do a lot a of gaming and staring at their smart phones. Everything I read tells me there isn’t a lot of recourse for people in SK when they have mental health issues. I think this was discussed a few weeks ago when the woman murdered her autistic child. So this law is just a gesture on the part of the legislature to appear like they are actually trying to do something.

  • That’s marvelous

    LOL, how can you get addicted to World of Tanks and Planetside 2? They are so full of n00bs that I usually rage-quit after a few hours. And the Korean servers are even worse than the EU servers.

  • Teddy

    They would draw attention to the president being female.
    Its not because she’s a woman get over it!

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