To Reduce or Not to Reduce: South Korea’s Gaming Laws

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On July 26th, the South Korean government let out a statement on its plans to revise laws regarding various service industries, namely gaming. It plans to, in steps, slowly remove the “Shutdown Law”, which disables games for minors from 12 AM to 6 AM, and also decided to get rid of the limit for spending money on games. 

South Korean congressman Jeong Byung Guk, the president of the National Assembly Special Committee on gaming, related the Shutdown Law to the Locomotive Acts (or Red Flag Acts) of Great Britain, saying that, “In times like the 4th Industrial Revolution, claims of game addiction are invalid.” He further commented that the National Assembly Special Committee on gaming concluded that the classification of game addiction as a disease and the Shutdown Law is an idea of the past.

The reason for the laws limiting money usage on games and Shutdown Laws existing was originally to prevent the excessive usage of games, but Korea is a very rare case in setting limits like this in countries with a market economy. This is because the market economy has as one of its principles of decisions based on one’s own discretion.

Many express social concerns about the new policies set to take action. However, one facet of the new policies is that the abolishment of the limit in spending money on games is not applicable to minors. In addition, many game companies pledged to implement a self-determined limit system, which lessens the concern for many. 

The abolishment of certain game-related laws should be observed, not as an abnormality but as normalization of the abnormality, when viewed in an international scope. South Korea, traditionally, has created many laws regulating the development and distribution of games because of the negative perception. Some may claim that these laws are in place to protect minors from playing too many games, but from the point of view of today, these laws can be seen as an overextension of the government’s jurisdiction. The government should be an organization that fosters the growth of culture, not regulating it. Games are not regarded as part of the culture of many nations and governments should strive to lessen restrictions on various areas, namely gaming.

However, a stark contrast can be seen between Korea’s and the world’s views on gaming.  Recently, the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) included the definition of “gaming disorder”. South Korea expressed its concern on game addiction and called for the treatment of individuals with game addiction. South Korea also pushed strongly for the classification of gaming disorder as a disease and contributed a multitude of studies to support its case, which was in contrast with the USA who had a more leisurely view on gaming. This revision is set to take effect in 2022.

The future of the Korean gaming industry is unknown — while the government does seem to lessen many restrictions on gaming, it also does keep multiple restrictions, and reinforces those restrictions. Although South Korea’s government does have the nation’s best interest at heart, it is getting increasingly hard to kill two birds with one stone, the economy and addiction being the two birds in this case.

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