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Physicians, industrialists split over WHO’s grouping of game into disease
  • By Song Soo-youn
  • Published 2019.06.13 16:02
  • Updated 2019.06.13 16:02
  • comments 0

The World Health Organization’s decision to put gaming disorder on the list of diseases has brought mixed reactions in Korea. The medical community and civic groups welcomed the move, but the game industry vehemently opposed the idea.

Citizens’ Network for Sustainable Digital Media Environment, comprising of 21 activist groups, including Citizens' Solidarity for Internet Smartphone Reliance Prevention, released a joint statement on Wednesday, supporting the nation’s adoption of gaming disorder.

“The WHO categorized the status of a person whose daily activities have been seriously impaired due to game addiction as a gaming disorder, which laid medical ground to provide appropriate healthcare services,” Citizens’ Network for Sustainable Digital Media Environment said. “We welcome and support the WHO’s decision.”

The joint group criticized the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism for failing to prevent game addiction and taking responsibility to build an alternative environment. It said the ministry took a biased stance, only focusing on scrapping the “Shutdown System,” which aimed to help teenagers get more sleep at night. Also known as the Youth Protection Revision Act, the Shutdown Law keeps children under 16 from playing online games between 00:00 and 06:00 a.m.

“Korea Association of Game Industry should be criticized for ignoring the victims of the game addicts and their families and seeking their profits irresponsibly. They do not contribute to the sustainable growth of the game industry, either,” the joint civic group said.

The game industry should stop engaging in an exhausting debate that denies the WHO’s adoption of gaming disorder, and all the game companies, scholars, civilian and public experts should join their efforts to prepare a follow-up measure, it added.

Korean medical societies in pediatrics, neuropsychiatry, preventive medicine, psychiatry, and epidemiology also issued a joint statement on Monday.

“The application of gaming disorder to the disease diagnosis system aims to prevent and manage health problems caused by game addiction effectively. It is the healthcare sector’s essential role,” the statement said.

Doctors demanded a nationwide fact-finding study on victims of gaming disorder. “To reduce health issues caused by gaming disorder, we will identify grounds for health problems related to overuse of games and develop guidelines for healthy digital media use and prevention, as well as gaming disorder diagnosis and treatment guidelines,” they said in the statement.

Game industry opposes adoption of gaming disorder

However, the local game industry vehemently opposed Korea’s adoption of gaming disorder.

Korea Game Developers Association, Korea Indie Game Society, Nexon’s labor union, Smilegate’s labor union, and Smartphone Game Developers Group released a joint statement, opposing the national designation of gaming disorder as a disease.

“We oppose to psychiatrists’ strange logic that games are good but a cause of addiction requiring treatment. We will pay attention to our internal voices to reflect on ourselves and do our best to establish a sound and reasonable game consumption culture,” the game industry said.

The game industry cited a meta-analysis study on game overuse to claim that more than 89 percent of Korean papers on excessive game use from 2013 to 2018 began with a “framed” hypothesis that game was the cause of behavioral addiction.

“For over a decade, some scholars in the addiction psychiatry field have stood behind the authority of the WHO General Assembly’s decision to repeat their one-sided and empty claims, with their eyes and ears shut. They should stop doing it,” the game industry said.

To oppose categorizing game addiction as a disease, the five groups in the game industry also set up “a joint response committee to oppose the adoption of gaming disorder into a disease code” in April. The committee consists of 27 game-related groups and 16 university departments, including Game Media Department at Kaywon University of Art and Design.


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