'Cyberlove': A Quiet Addiction

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'Cyberlove': A Quiet Addiction

Kim (35), known only by his family name, has a job in a major company. He and his wife divorced last February after five years of marriage. The source of his troubles? His 'cyber' marriage to an university student in her 20s via the Internet in November last year. Kim and the university student had fallen in love with each other in cyberspace and began a double life, doing business and going shopping together on the Net.

Kim began to devote more and more time to the Internet. He often stayed up all night and paid little attention to his wife. She eventually demanded a divorce.

Housewife Lee (28) also has a big problem. Her husband (a public official, 30) is addicted to 'cyberlove'. The two have had sexual relations only 10 times in the past 18 months. Her husband neglects his wife and concentrates on surfing porno sites every day after work until dawn.

After Lee found her husband had had a conversation with another woman through the Internet, she had to visit a psychiatrist.

Lee says she had known her husband was crazy about the Internet before their marriage, but she didn't realize it would threaten their relationship. She says her husband's lifestyle causes her so much pain that, unless he reforms, divorce is unavoidable.

As the influence of the Internet increases, 'cyberlove' addicts follow. Sufferers often lose interest in their marriages - and many of them end up divorced.

The Korea Academy of Psychiatry's Internet addiction research team surveyed 987 Internet users in November last year. An eye-opening 14.8 percent of them displayed symptoms of Internet addiction.

Professional psychiatrist Kim Hyun-soo says over the course of a month about 10 of her patients complain that their spouses are engaged in Internet relationships. She defines the main symptom of Internet addiction as a man losing interest in his wife and protesting that his privacy is being invaded. In the United States, where use of the Net is most widespread, research has revealed that 15 percent of users are classified as "addicted" and 10 percent visit only porno sites.

With rising concerns over these Internet afflictions, the Information Communication Ethics Committee decided an advertisement seeking 'cyber husbands and wives' was unethical and removed it.

Lyoo In-kyoon, psychiatry professor in the college of medicine at Seoul National University, says that a cyberlove addict confuses cyberspace with real life and is unable to accept the reality. She advises that family and friends should patiently encourage the addict to seek the rewards of the real world.

Possible symptoms of 'cyberlove' addiction include:

* Lack of interest in relationship with husband or wife
* Time devoted to husband or wife reduced
* E-mail address differs from Internet ID
* Addict protests that his/her privacy should be respected
* Irregular sleep patterns
* Household is neglected
* There is evidence of lying
* Changes in character

by Park Hyun-sun

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