Young S.Koreans face midnight ban for online games

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The Independent Tech

South Korea's government is close to adopting a "Cinderella" law to ban youngsters from playing online games past midnight amid growing concerns about Internet addiction, officials said Thursday.

A bill to be submitted to parliament as early as this month will require South Korean online game companies to cut off services at midnight for users registered as younger than 16, the culture and family ministries said.

"The thing about online games is, once you are in it, it is extremely hard to get out of it, especially if you are a young kid," Jo Rin, a ministry official in charge of the law, told AFP.

"A lot of kids play games all night long and have trouble studying at school and going about their normal lives during daytime. We believe the law is necessary to ensure their health and a right to sleep."

The online services would resume at six the following morning, he said, adding there would be a year-long waiting period until the law takes effect so that companies can prepare for it.

The government is also considering requiring companies to limit young users' access to online games to a maximum number of hours a week or a day if parents request this, said Jo.

South Korea is one of the world's most wired societies, but there have been sporadic reports of deaths related to Internet game addiction.

Last month a 15-year-old South Korean boy committed suicide after killing his mother for scolding him over playing computer games too much.

In February a 32-year-old man died after reportedly playing for five days with few breaks.

A month later police arrested a couple accused of leaving their baby daughter to starve to death while they raised a "virtual" child on the Internet. The baby had long been malnourished, an autopsy showed.

The government, which estimates that South Korea has about two million web addicts, is already launching one campaign to combat the affliction.

From next year, it will offer free software to people at risk, to limit the time they spend on the web.

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