According to the government, about 2 million South Koreans – nearly one in 10 online users – are addicted to the internet. Many spend every waking moment immersed in role-playing games, in which players form alliances to guide their characters through mythical worlds, collecting extra powers and other items as they go.
“I’ve been playing this for about two years and won’t stop until I get to the end,” Ji, a 27-year-old mobile content developer, says as beads of sweat form on his brow. “In my line of work I spend a lot of time in front of a computer, so this is where I feel most comfortable.” But he denies that his obsession could be turning into an addiction. “It’s my way of relieving stress. I could drink or go to the cinema, but this is how I want to spend my spare time. I don’t have a girlfriend, and I’m not likely to meet one here.”
The government has responded to juvenile web addiction by spending millions of dollars on counselling centres and awareness classes for children. From September, gamers aged under 18 will be unable to access 19 popular online titles, such as Maple Story and Dragon Nest, from midnight to 8am. Those who play outside the curfew will find their characters growing weaker the longer they play.
Now, however, the government must reconcile its support for online activity with the emergence of an older generation of web addicts. While the number of teenage addicts has fallen from more than 1 million to 938,000 in the past two years, those in their 20s and 30s have risen to 975,000, with the unemployed and university students considered at greatest risk.
Read the rest of the article. It’s quite simply staggering. As we, in the West, digitalise ourselves further, can we expect similar results?
It’s a shame this doesn’t happen for fantasy literature on quite this scale, but there’s something interesting in this – I mean, clearly there is a mindset here that suggests huge numbers of people are open to immersion in secondary worlds. Whenever anyone talks about genre “finally” going mainstream, I think of things like this article, or the vast numbers of copies Lord of the Rings sold, or the queues outside of Twilight films.