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December 23, 2019 04:10 pm

Video Games Are Dividing South Korea

When StarCraft first came on the scene in 1998, the real-time science fiction strategy game wasn't just a hit -- it was an awakening. Out of 11 million copies sold worldwide, 4.5 million were in South Korea, despite it not being localized into Korean. "PC bangs," pay-as-you-go gaming cafes stocked with food and drinks, grew from just 100 to 23,000 in three years. But as the mania took the country by storm, hospital check-ins involving computer games also dramatically rose. Young people were playing until their bodily functions began breaking down, occasionally even to the point of death. In May of this year, after years of advocacy from medical experts and lawmakers, members of the 72nd assembly of the World Health Organization unanimously voted to recognize video game addiction as a disorder. The categorization, however, remains controversial. Despite years of concern and study about the effects of video games, conclusive evidence that they cause addiction or violence has been hard to come by. And in the numerous parliamentary forums, televised debates, and academic symposia convened, the same question looms large: Has a culture of intensive gaming really brought about a public health crisis, or is excessive gaming just a symptom of other problems?

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