Teens face midnight curfew for online gaming

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Teens face midnight curfew for online gaming

The government moved a step closer to banning teens from online gaming at night, with a strengthened youth protection law revision set to be submitted to the National Assembly next week, officials said Friday.

Online game addiction emerged as a serious concern this year with a series of tragic incidents involving addicted teens, including a 15-year-old boy who last month killed his mother and then himself after she scolded him about his excessive gaming habit.

The Youth Protection Law revision, if approved by the legislature, will prohibit those who are younger than 16 from playing Internet games from midnight to 6 a.m., said officials at the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

Most online game sites require users to log in to access their service, and information like birth year is automatically fed to the operator.

The law revision will apply to all Internet games regardless of their ratings, a condition that the gaming industry fears may seriously restrict the market, officials said.

The so-called nighttime shutdown policy was proposed by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family early this year as a way to combat game addiction in teens, but the idea has been unwelcome within the Culture Ministry, which regulates the game industry.

“The government should boost the game industry, but this can be seen as too excessive for the industry,” a Culture Ministry official said on condition of anonymity.

The revised law will be submitted to the National Assembly next week and may be approved as early as this month, officials said.

South Korean Internet games enjoy popularity all over Asia.

Korean online games’ overseas revenue surpassed $1 billion in 2008, which was 50 times more than the money the country earned from cinema sales and six times more than drama exports, according to data from the state-run Korea Creative Contents Agency. Yonhap
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