Cinderella law posing challenge to industry

청소년 자정되면 게임 OFF

Apr 22,2011
Paik Hee-young (sitting), the Gender Equality and Family Minister, visits an Internet cafe in Seodaemun district, Seoul. The ministry wanted a tougher version of the midnight ban on online computer gaming. [YONHAP]

The National Assembly’s Legislation-Judiciary Committee yesterday passed the so-called Cinderella law on the playing of online games by minors, triggering concerns that it could hinder the growth of one of the country’s most vibrant and profitable businesses.

The law, proposed a year ago to tackle player addiction to Internet and online games, would ban those younger than 16 from playing games from midnight to 6 a.m.

The National Assembly will conduct a final review of the law in a full session later this month. If it approves the measure, the law will take effect in October.

The passage of the bill by the committee caused some civic rights advocates to complain that the law violated the constitutional protection of basic civil rights.

A group of seven civic groups dealing with the education and rights of teenagers denounced the action as being “ignorant of the rights of teenagers and violating human rights.”

“The law on an online curfew system strips teenagers of their rights when it comes to cultural decision making,” the group said. It added that the law violates the U.N. Children’s Rights Treaty that guarantees the rights of teenagers to pursue cultural activities.

The law will apply only to online games, while excluding mobile games. Although this was seen as a concession to the local computer gaming industry, market analysts said it would still have an impact since online games are one of the most profitable businesses in Korea.

“[The government] now risks obstructing the development of an entire industry, one of the country’s most vibrant,” The Economist reported recently. “With talented programmers and a ready-made market of smartphone-owning obsessives, this is a natural growth industry.”

Online games have emerged as a key export for Korea, accounting for at least half the exports of Korean cultural products. Exports of games were estimated at $1.5 billion last year, up from $130 million in 2001.

However, many say the immediate toll on the industry will be minor. Already local “PC-bang,” or Internet cafes, ban the entry of those under 18 between 10 p.m. and 9 a.m.

“Since multiplayer online role-playing games charge users on a flat-rate basis, the midnight curfew will cause limited damage to sales of online game publishers,” said Jeong Jae-wu, an analyst at Woori Investment & Securities.

According to a White Paper on the Game Industry published by Korea Creative Content Agency, 92.5 percent of Korean teenagers only play online games between noon and 10 p.m.

Opponents say it is unclear whether the Cinderella law will be effective in fighting game addiction.

Last year, there was widespread international publicity over the case of a Korean couple who allowed their infant child to starve to death while they spent most of their time at a nearby Internet cafe playing games.

Opponents are saying that the midnight ban would eventually cause teenagers to use their parents’ resident registration numbers to access the games.

According a survey by Asunaro, a teenage rights group, 86 percent of those questioned said they will use this method to avoid the ban.

Another survey by the Korean Society of Legislation Studies found that 48.4 percent of teenagers surveyed said they would opt for “other content on the Web.”

“There was no mention of regular Internet connections being cut off, just online access to those games. So, the underage gamers in question will stop playing [online] games at 12 a.m,” Chris Anderson, a travel editor with the Huffington Post wrote on CNN’s Website. He added that they will instead find a way around the block, or surf for porn.

Some in the industry believe the ban will damage the image of Korean online games. “What we are more worried about than a decline in sales is that society might perceive games as a harmful business,” said an industry official. “Such a perception could undermine the value of the country’s competitive cultural content and hinder growth and exports.”

“In the last several years when debate heated up over regulations on online games, I felt like I was some kind of sinner,” said another industry official. “Now that the law has been passed, it’s important to raise the awareness, and promote the healthy, constructive side of the game business.”

By Kim Hyung-eun [hkim@joongang.co.kr]

한글 관련 기사 [중앙일보]

청소년 자정되면 게임 OFF

‘셧다운제’ 법사위 통과
이르면 10월부터 시행
스마트폰 게임은 2년 유예

만 16세 미만 청소년들의 심야시간(오전 0~6시) 온라인 게임 이용을 제한하는 일명 ‘셧다운제(청소년 보호법 개정안)’가 21일 국회 법제사법위원회에서 여야 합의로 통과됐다. 청소년보호법 개정안은 28일 또는 29일 국회 본회의에서 처리될 예정이어서 이르면 10월부터 이 제도가 시행될 전망이다.

‘셧다운제’는 PC에 청소년 인증 시스템을 깔아 해당 시간에 게임이 자동적으로 꺼지게 되는 것이다. 인터넷 게임 업체 등이 청소년들에게 해당 시간에 게임을 제공하다 적발되면 2년 이하의 징역 또는 1000만원 이하의 벌금을 받게 된다.

‘셧다운제’는 지난해 4월 해당 상임위(국회 여성가족위원회)를 통과했지만 게임 업계가 과도한 규제라고 반발하면서 논쟁이 계속돼 왔다. 그러다 지난해 11월 부산의 한 중학생이 게임을 못하게 하는 어머니를 살해하고 자살한 사건이 발생하면서 논의에 속도가 붙었다.

다만 ‘셧다운제’를 PC 게임 외에 스마트폰 등 모바일 기기 게임까지 적용하는 문제는 시행을 2년간 유예하기로 했다. 또 온라인 게임에 회원으로 가입할 때 친권자의 동의가 필요한지 여부도 결론을 내리지 못하고, 게임산업진흥법 개정안을 논의할 때 함께 토론하기로 했다.

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