South Korea to put curfew on online games for kids

Tue Apr 13, 2010 5:04am EDT
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By Christine Kim

SEOUL (Reuters Life!) - South Korea plans to cut off on-line video games at midnight for school-age children and allow parents to set limits on playing hours to curb problems of Internet gaming addiction in the world's most wired country.

The sensational case in March of parents whose infant daughter starved to death while they were playing games on the Internet raised concerns in the country about gaming addiction and calls on the government to act.

Under the plan announced this week by the culture ministry, computer game companies were asked to put in place voluntary restrictions by the end of the year for children that also try to cut down on the hours adults play games.

South Korea, which has one of the world's highest penetration rates for high-speed broadband connections at homes, is also saturated with PC rooms where gamers spend long hours in front of computer monitors.

Internet gaming would be denied from midnight to about 8 a.m. for school-aged children. Several game providers have already set in place the regulations.

To enforce the measures, the government has called on game providers to monitor the national identity numbers of users, which include their ages, while allowing parents to see if their IDs were used by children looking for ways to play after hours.

"The policy provides a way for parents to supervise their children's game playing," said Lee Young-ah, an official at the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

The ministry has asked the game companies to find ways to cap the hours that adults play.

"Users can select a special server that gives them incentives for cutting down on their gaming time," said Kim Kun-woo of NC Soft, a leading South Korean game company.

(Additional reporting by Rhee So-eui; writing by Jon Herskovitz, editing by Miral Fahmy)