The South Korean gaming industry is expected to be hit hard following the World Health Organization’s (WHO) decision in May to add ‘gaming disorder’ to its International Classification of Diseases.
But game developers and professional gamers are not too happy with WHO which has described the disorder as a pattern of behavior whereby the player has ‘impaired control’ and gives priority to gaming ‘over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence’.
Reports say that due to the classification, South Korea is likely to lose US$9.45 billion in revenue. According to South China Morning Post, South Korea’s economy would take a huge financial hit over a period of three years if the disorder was ‘officially recognized’. Moreover, gaming exports are set to record a further 1.1 trillion won loss by the third year.
In light of this, South Korea’s culture ministry has written a letter to WHO in May highlighting its opposition. The Yonhap news agency said Seoul has opposed the codification of gaming addiction as a disease. The Ministry has also pointed out a study by Konkuk University that highlights people turning to gaming because of stress at school, peer pressure and parental behavior. “From a clinical perspective, the letter asserted that gaming did not directly cause changes in the brain, and pre-existing conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder could result in compulsive gaming,” a report said.
In regards to gaming addiction, South Korea has a policy in place to curb the problem. The country introduced a law in 2012 to ban children under 16-years-of-age from playing online between midnight and 6 am. This law, known as Cinderella law cost the country, according to SCMP a huge US$2.4 billion in the first three years after its implementation.
An expert, Shim Yong-Chool from the National Centre for Youth Internet Addiction Treatment, said about 16% of the country’s teens are at risk of developing some kind of gaming addiction. Yong-Chool said that most of the young people he helps to treat who heavily depend on games tend to exhibit signs of depression and use gaming as an escape route. “Treatment focuses more on what is making them depressed, than their addiction to video games,” he explained. “If we do end up adopting WHO’s new measures, we will need to research more into how bad the state of our game addiction situation is and develop better prevention methods for the youth.”
Meanwhile, an economist Wi Jung-Hyun, a professor at Chung-Ang University said they have to see whether games themselves are addictive or if there are outside factors that make people addicted. The professor described it as a clash between generations and compared gamers who overindulged to absentee fathers who went out on fishing trips for weeks on end. He said that more research and survey needs to be done.