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Wednesday, August 25, 2021

(South) Korea Looks to Liberalise Child Game-Playing Times

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - You should think about the fact they had this authoritarian scheme in the first place.

According to The Korean Herald (an English-language newspaper), two ministries (The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family) want to change how—more precisely, when—children are playing videogames in South Korea. Previously and for the past decade, players aged 16 or younger were banned from playing videogames between midnight and 06:00. This is enforceable from the videogame provider level, as in videogame companies will be fined and/or imprisoned (who exactly in the company would get locked up wasn't clear) if children were playing late-night games. Multinational corporations often didn't want to deal with this, so kids games (the article cited Minecraft) were restricted to non-kids entirely, which I'm sure ruined its marketability.

While the Ministries announced their intention to change this system, it requires South Korea's legislative body to actually amend their “Youth Protection Act”, which wasn't future-proofed, so it already doesn't include mobile games, social media, streaming services, and browsing KoopaTV. Rather than also subject those things to bans, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family decided to just leave it up to the parents/legal guardians.

I get the feeling this might be less a freedom thing and more of a geopolitical thing. Here's what the article notes from the Ministry's announcement:

“According to the government announcement, China is the only other country where the government restricts gaming hours.”

Why do you think the government would mention that China is the only other country that does something like this? Apparently, in South Korea kids can play videogames all day long, just not after midnight—in China, government regulation pressure means kids have just one one hour a day, down from an hour and a half as of the beginning of this month. I think the timing is not a coincidence. While China is cracking down on fun and enjoyment, South Korea doesn't want to be associated with such... misery. (China isn't popular in South Korea.)

Still, because South Korea did foster this culture that game playing can be dangerous for some kids, the government will be creating educational videos and talk tracks on how to talk to your game-addicted child. They'll also have more “counseling and treatment” as well as “rehabilitation camps” that you can send a kid to.

I shouldn't be making light of this sort of thing, since I'm apparently one of the few gamers who agrees that “game addiction” should be a recognised illness. I still see other people mocking that, although I agree by 2021 that the World Health Organization is a joke group and their designations (should) mean little. I do wonder what a rehabilitation camp involves. It feels like a mechanism that crappy parents can just send their children away to because they don't want to deal with them for a summer.

While it's the Ministry Gender Equality and Family that tries to keep game developers compliant with their midnight shutdown, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism maintains and will continue to maintain a voluntary “choice system” where under-aged gamers (and/or their parents) can sign the kids up and designate their own allowable hours. The actual mechanism for what happens if you try to play outside the allowable hour isn't clear. Maybe this system is government spyware on your computer that will just shut it off. I would think with all of the ingenuity that is supposed to come out of South Korea, it wouldn't take a government ministry to create such a product.

Oh well. Here's hoping South Korea's legislature amends their law and opens up midnight gaming to kids. ...And here's hoping parents stay on top of that. Up yours, China.

While these kinds of restrictions apparently only exist in authoritarian Asian countries, keep in mind that there are many nanny-state politicians in the West that would be happy to enact these kinds of laws to cripple the gaming industry in the name of the children. Try not to elect them into power. (Feel free to comment about the fact that South Korea has a Ministry of Gender Equality.)

How does China respond to South Korea's intended freedom grant? ...Even harsher restrictions.
While South Korean parents will be in charge of their kids, in China, parents there really want China's government to parent their kids.


  1. Wise words. “Only change if someone compares you to China.” I think North Korea is the vilest, but China is still lurking in the dark with their own devices.

    1. If I put that quote into Google, it has zero results, but it automatically offers me a Simplified Chinese translation.


      Zhǐyǒu dāng yǒurén bǐjiào nǐ shí cái huì gǎibiàn


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