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WHO gaming addiction classification challenged

May 28,2019
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism will challenge the World Health Organization’s (WHO) decision to officially classify gaming addiction as a mental disorder, though it is not clear what, if anything, can be done.

A decision-making committee at the World Health Assembly unanimously approved the addition to be included in International Classification of Disease, Eleventh Revision (ICD-11) on Saturday. The decision will require each WHO member state to develop an adoption strategy.

The ministry emphasized the global health authority’s decision lacks conclusive scientific proof and could disrupt the gaming industry.

“There’s some time left before the new classification comes into effect, so we plan to express our views and make suggestions to the WHO,” a ministry spokesperson said.

He did not mention when the ministry will contact the WHO to express its objection. The ministry sent an open letter to the WHO earlier this month.

Addiction to video games will now be viewed on par with substance abuse and gambling addiction. The WHO stipulates on its website that gaming addiction could result in “significant impairments in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning.” With the committee’s approval Saturday, the new classification will go into effect from 2022.

The decision met with heavy criticism from the gaming industry and some medical experts, who contend there is not enough substantial evidence to support WHO’s decision. They have claimed that society needs better quality, more transparent research to truly verify the health effects of excessive gaming.

The main question is how Korea will adopt ICD-11, as the Culture Ministry and the Ministry of Health and Welfare have taken divergent stances on the codification of gaming addiction as a disease. According to the Health Ministry, the new classification could come into force in Korea around 2026 after being run through the country’s regulatory processes.

“If the WHO eventually decides to classify gaming disorder as a disease, we will immediately accept its decision,” said Minister of Health and Welfare Park Neung-hoo in a meeting October last year.

Over the years, the ICD has served as a diagnosis guide for doctors and the basis for health insurers in providing reimbursement for policyholders seeking treatment.

“Whether the country follows ICD-11 or not is not really totally up to the Ministry of Health and Welfare,” the Culture Ministry spokesperson added.

“We plan to constantly communicate within the government and find a reasonable solution before ICD-11 reaches Korea.”

The Health Ministry announced Monday it will set up a body to address the WHO’s recent decision and balance the interests of the gaming industry and those increasingly concerned over gaming addiction.

BY KO JUN-TAE [ko.juntae@joongang.co.kr]


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