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Decade-old gaming curfew ends at midnight Friday

A person playing online games at an internet cafe in Seoul (Yonhap)
A person playing online games at an internet cafe in Seoul (Yonhap)
At the turn of the year, South Korea’s 10-year-old gaming curfew on minors under the age of 16 will be lifted. 

From midnight Friday, Koreans can play through the night as the anti-addiction system, introduced in 2011, is abolished, according to the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family on Friday. 

Previously, those aged 16 or younger were banned from playing online computer games between midnight and 6 a.m. 

The National Assembly in November passed a revision to the Youth Protection Act to scrap the system. 

The midnight shutdown was widely supported by parents when it was first introduced as a way to curb excessive playtime and reduce risk of addiction.

It, however, has faced increasing doubts with the rise of mobile games, which were not covered by the law. 

In 2018, mobile games took up 54 percent of South Korea’s video game market sales, followed by PC games at 41 percent, according to data from the Korea Creative Content Agency.

Some gamers also found ways to circumvent the ban, such as opening overseas accounts or using their parents’ identification. 

But the revised law still doesn’t give complete freedom to underage gamers. 

In a new anti-addiction regime known as the “choice system,” those under the age of 18 or their legal guardians are asked to select specific hours for their gaming sessions. 

“The shutdown law has been improved in a way that respects teenagers’ right to self-determination as well as families’ right to education. In cooperation with related ministries, (the Gender Equality Ministry) will expand its educational programs aimed at educating children on the use of games,” said Gender Equality and Family Minister Kim Kyung-sun in a statement. 

By Choi Jae-hee (cjh@heraldcorp.com)
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