[Letters] Move to counter game addiction misses the root of the problem

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[Letters] Move to counter game addiction misses the root of the problem

Sociologists could find the same pattern of history in metal type printing, the Jagyukru water clock invented in the Joseon Dynasty, the Turtle Ship and online games.

The world’s first metal type printing technology went into decline when King Gongmin died and Limb Je-jong’s clique of monks retreated.

Then the world’s best water clock, Jagyukru, was reduced to a mere mass of scrap iron after King Sejong died.

The brilliant shipbuilding technology that played a key role in the Japanese invasion of Korea in 1592 couldn’t be passed on to the next generation after a political coup in 1623.

The information technology powerhouse’s online games are now suffering from repeated regulations and affirmative discrimination after the inauguration of the Lee administration.

The pattern of decline is very simple.

Natural science and engineering majors work hard to develop world-class science and technology. Their hard work recedes from the center of civilization pressured by the political might of liberal arts majors.

A history that should not be repeated is actually being repeated again.

That is, a plan for youth protection reform is moving through the Legislation and Judiciary Committee of the National Assembly.

After the authority over youth protection was transferred to the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, politicians who were fighting for the authority to regulate online games have now nearly passed a law that bans youths from playing online games after midnight.

The youth protection reform that ignores human nature is as evil as the National Prohibition Act of 1919 of the United States.

Just as prohibition produced bootleg liquor markets and helped the Mafia, a huge organized criminal group in the U.S., the youth protection reform will create illegal private Web servers and hurt market for game consoles to the U.S. and Japan.

Teenagers from poor families will once again turn to sniffing glue and butane gas.

The cause of such an unjust law is game addiction that afflicts negative effects on our youths’ real lives and engenders social problems.

But the fact that shouldn’t be forgotten is that the addiction doesn’t stem from playing games.

Game addicts have the same neurological structure in the brain as drug addicts.

All kinds of addiction, including game, drugs, alcohol, butane and glue are caused by the same pathology of a mental disease, which is depression.

When one feels depressed, the brain tends to secrete dopamine, a neurotransmitter that stimulates the nucleus of pleasure and makes the brain feel better.

Game, drugs, alcohol, butane and glue are only acting as the tool to stimulate the pleasure nucleus.

A game addict needs to take antidepressants and receive treatment.

The forceful shutting down of game sites would lead gamers to find another tool to help produce dopamine. It was only a decade ago that butane and glue addiction plagued Korea. What’s more, the country had a relatively high rate of alcoholics given its population size.

The use of butane and glue for a month made youth lungs irreparable.

Alcohol addiction caused serious social problems and the break up families.

These addicts now spend most of their time in Internet cafes, or so-called PC rooms. The debut of online games replaced drug addition with game addiction.

Game addiction is a negative pathological phenomenon, but it is a much milder condition.

What we need to do is sensibly manage the new medium and create a healthy culture, but not shut it down with force.


Lee In-hwa,

professor at Ewha Womans University

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