South Korean Politicians Still Think Video Games Are Drugs

South Korean Politicians Still Think Video Games Are Drugs

In South Korea, some politicians (certainly not all) seem to have it out for gaming. These politicians want video games in the same category as alcohol and even illegal drugs.

Last month, for example, Hwang Woo-yea of the majority conservative Saenuri party talked about rescuing “society from evil.” ThisIsGame (via tipster Sang) quotes Hwang as saying:

According to the Ministry of Welfare, four major categories of addiction where medical treatment is needed are 2.18 million alcoholics, 0.47 million internet gamers, 0.59 million gamblers, and 0.09 million drug addicts. The sum of them accounts for 6.7 precent of the population which adds up to 3.33 million people. This country has to be be saved from the four major addictions. We have to understand the pain individuals and families of alcohol, drugs, gambling, and game addicts go through, heal them and provide them with a proper environment so we can save our society from these evils.

Hwang went on to call for strict regulations for game developers in South Korea. Obviously, the country’s game industry doesn’t seem too happy about this.

The addiction bill hasn’t passed, but the country’s conservative Saenuri party keeps pushing it. And since this is the majority party, things do not look good. The country’s leader, President Park Geun-hye, is in the Saenuri party.

And in South Korea, there is a /”Shutdown Law” that has made life difficult for gamers.

This sort of talk isn’t new in South Korea. Earlier this spring, a bill was introduced by this same political party that said video games needed to be strictly regulated like drugs and alcohol. Last month, Hwang called for the passage of this bill.

Then, late last month, ETNews reported that South Korea’s Ministry of Health and Welfare even began trying to assign “disease codes” for addictions like “internet” and “games.” This, in turn, would classify them as mental disorders. And that could probably help the passage of this legislation.

In a country where gaming and eSports thrive, these politicians and bureaucrats seem out of step. Or maybe it’s because gaming thrives that they want to regulate them more, presumably trying to take a cut. Whatever the rationale is, these politicians make Congressman Jun Byung-hun, who once cosplayed as a League of Legends character, that much of a closer ally for Korean gamers.

국민 대다수가 즐기는 인터넷게임을 질병 유발물이라니 [ETNews — Thanks Sang!] 새누리당, 4대 중독 척결 대상에 ‘게임’도 포함 [ThisIsGame]

Photo: SeanPavonePhoto/Shutterstock


  • I love it how all politicians are not only out of touch with the real world, but fear modern technology and automatically assume something they don’t understand is evil and corrupting our youth, which is even more amusing considering most politicians are themselves evil and corrupt. But yeah, let’s hope this doesn’t work out, because I have a horrible feeling that if it does, then other countries will follow. Sure, South Korea may not be as influential on the rest of the world like America, but I wouldn’t be surprised if other politicians in other countries see this and run with it anyway.

  • There are definitely similarities between video games and drugs. GENERALLY speaking they’re both fairly mindless ways to kill time (of course video games are closer to the less harmful drugs like alcohol and cannabis than crack or meth). Neither drugs nor video games contribute positively to society, they can both lead to addiction, they can damage people’s lives, and they have especially negative impact on children. In a perfect world there would be no video games – they don’t offer any real fulfillment or add anything beyond mindless entertainment to life. You might say “well that’s true of all forms of media” and you’d be right, television is full of trash, the TV shows are literally filler material to switch your brain off so you will see some great products and how these great products can make your life better. Movies are commercials themselves plus the BIG movies usually have the same kind of agenda behind them (don’t want to go into “conspiracy theories” here though). Music is the same.
    And then there is some kind of argument to be made for art. Well, art can be nice, but how much of the trash you see on the TV, in the cinema, on the radio, and in video games could really be considered art? I guess it depends who you ask.

    • That’s a nice little subjective, nihilistic opinion there. Did you know that anything that isn’t ensuring the survival of your genes is a pointless, unfulfilling way to pass the time? Even then, you have to question whether there’s really any hope for the survival of humans when all we do is seek our own destruction or indulge in pointless pastimes such as playing video games, watching TV, listening to music, and commenting on websites.

      The moral of the story is moderation and control. Anything, and I mean anything (Words like workaholic and orthorexia exist for a reason), can be destructive if you aren’t sensible and careful about what you’re doing.

      • I think there are plenty of ways to pass time that are much more rewarding than consuming media, but are still highly enjoyable (reading books, socialising, studying, exercising, being creative). The difference is that consuming media is too easy and offers an instant reward (similar to taking a drug). If more people were willing to put the effort in I’m certain they would find much more rewarding ways to pass time. Just to clarify – by rewarding I mean intellectually stimulatiting, building social connections/learning about other peoples’ perspectives, making something, etc. basically self improvement.
        I agree with you about moderation, nothing wrong with a few hours a week of harmless, mindless fun. I’m talking more about the people whose lives revolve around media, the highlight of their week is the latest episode of their favourite TV show.
        I know it’s easy to dismiss what I’m saying and down-vote me and call me a troll, but I’m just saying that these politicians’ complaints have a reasonable grounding.

        • I think if your life revolves around media, then you got bigger problems. Media isn’t bad, you learn new things all the time. Look at documentaries and such. True the tv has a 99 chanels of rubish, but 1 or 2 are something you would learn something from them that may be new, interesting or at times thought provoking. What you show there is a general negative view of things. Games can and are used to help kids learn new things, may it be language skills or maths skills. Some studies show how games help at times in certain medical ways too. Humans are complex anything that is bad an be good and anything that is good can be bad.

          You mention reading books for example. There are a large number of people who read books a lot who get poor eye sight and crappy social skills.

          You also mentioned be creative but you categorized music, games, media as such arts to have similarities to drugs.

          Sorry to say but I think you got a bit of an issue there with a negative perspective on things. We all get that from time to time, some more often than others. Just learn to deal with it, like everybody else.

          • I appreciate the comment – you make some good points.
            “I think if your life revolves around media, then you got bigger problems. Media isn’t bad, you learn new things all the time.”
            yes, I agree, but the same can be said for drugs. occasional drug use can be beneficial for some people as a way to unwind and relax or to boost creativity or social skills or to kickstart some kind of “spiritual self discovery”. and yet many people agree that prohibition of drugs is a good thing. Of course media is nowhere near as bad as many drugs (as I previously stated). I agree the problem is mostly at a personal level, but I think everyone is able to overcome their problems (addiction, laziness, whatever), they just need to find a balance in life.

            I think that when you play video games or watch TV 99% of the time you’re throwing your time down a hole. You don’t really get anything out of it other than instant, temporary gratification (like taking drugs).
            On your point about books – I don’t really follow you. no you can’t just read books and then be a better person, reading books is a form of entertainment, but at least it’s usually intellectually stimulating.
            On creativity – being creative is completely different to consuming media. when you be creative you have to use problem solving skills.
            I don’t really consider myself to be a negative person, I am enjoying life a lot. I see the value of stepping back and looking at your life every once in a while and trying to improve it.

            My problem with this article is that it has a HUGE bias and is very condescending, the writer doesn’t even consider the other point of view.

  • Korea already needs internet camps ( ( to help internet addiction and they might need camps for video games because people are dying because of video games. ( ( A couple even forgot they had real a baby. ( That says a lot. The government is NOT suppressing people, this is a real problem in Korea.
    Prevention and correction therapy is already used in China, the Netherlands, America, Canada and Australia too, so it’s not just like Korea with this program.

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