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Game use drops just 4.5% after curfew started

Controversy surrounding the effectiveness of the online game curfew has been called into question yet again since the law was implemented three months ago.

According to industry officials, the average number of people logging onto six different online games by the country’s big three online game firms slightly decreased to 41,796 people from 43,744 people, which was the average figure recorded ahead of the policy implementation.

This is only a 4.5 percent decrease, leading to assumptions that a large portion of teenagers are still logging into the sites through other methods, which include using their parents’ resident registration numbers.

“This adds to the claims that it is not the regulation that should be prioritized (in online gaming), but rather the attention of their parents and the implementation of educational programs,” said an industry source who wished not to be identified.

On Nov. 20, the government implemented a law which banned those under age 16 from logging into online game sites from 12-6 a.m. in a bid to fight teen gaming addiction.

The law exempted console games and mobile games for the time being, saying it will expand it into those categories following a test period.

The policy, however, drew fierce protest from the country’s online game industry, which argued that the new regulation will most likely hinder the country’s rapidly growing market. They also said teenagers take up just 10-30 percent of their total players during those early hours.

“What this indicates is that the shutdown system, forced by the government, was ultimately a measure designed just to take control,” said Kim Seong-gon, secretary-general of the Korea Association of Game Industry, which has about 80 member firms.

He said that the government should impose more flexible regulations according to the services instead of applying the same set of rules to all games.

Kim’s comment involving the game curfew comes as a constitutional appeal was filed on the issue last year. The group that filed the appeal, which included parents and students, said the government’s new policy goes against the students’ right to pursue happiness as well as the parents’ educational rights.

However, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family is planning to officially go ahead with its crackdown on game firms involving the online game curfew starting next month. The Education Ministry is also reviewing the implementation of the game “cooling off” system, which forces online game players to take a 5-to-10-minute break following every two hours of play time by disconnecting them from the sites.

By Cho Ji-hyun (sharon@heraldcorp.com)
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