|A man plays "Tera," a massively multiplayer online role-playing game. / Korea Times file|
By Jun Ji-hye
Game companies here are growing anxious about what they say are "unsubstantiated" arguments from some politicians and critics that game addiction was the cause of a recent murder case in which a 29-year-old man brutally stabbed a part-time worker at a PC cafe in Seoul.
Company officials said Monday that such arguments could mislead public opinion, raising concerns over the possibility for the murder case to trigger stringent regulations, which would kill the game industry.
On Oct. 14, a 21-year-old part-time worker at a PC room was murdered after being stabbed in the face and neck over 30 times. The suspect, who was arrested by police, said he killed the part-time worker because he was "not kind."
While the high-profile case received considerable media coverage and public attention, Rep. Yoon Jong-pil of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party claimed the suspected murderer visited PC rooms frequently and played games for more than five hours a day.
"Police announced they will investigate whether the suspect was addicted to games," the lawmaker said during a National Assembly audit, Oct. 30.
The lawmaker also compared brain scans of game addicts to those of drug addicts, saying, "Games deliver addictive qualities like drugs as their brains are practically the same."
Some critics appeared to agree with Yoon's argument, citing the suspect has no police record. They claimed games apparently dragged violent instincts within the suspect.
But an official from a game company here said, "The mere fact that the suspect played games should not become the direct cause of the murder as the correlation between the two has never been proven."
She said it is regrettable that games are blamed whenever crimes take place.
"Such an argument amounts to accusing all general gamers including myself of being potential criminals," she said.
Another official from a game firm said negative perceptions toward games seemed to be reflected into "groundless arguments," claiming it is not understandable why games have to be blamed when people talk about brutal acts of murder.
Game firm officials have especially deep worries about the case as it took place soon after the Ministry of Health and Welfare said it will accept the stance of the World Health Organization (WHO) that game addiction is a mental disorder.
Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said during a National Assembly audit, Oct. 11, "If the WHO finally recognizes game addiction as a mental disorder, we will immediately accept it."
Company officials claimed a careful approach is necessary before categorizing game addiction as a mental disorder as it will exert a huge influence on medical institutions and the health insurance system as well as the game industry.
Kang Shin-chul, president of Korea Association of Game Industry, noted the game industry has accounted for 50 percent of exports of hallyu-related content, saying any problems, if they exist, could be resolved through the establishment of a self-regulatory organization.