South Korea: Women’s Ministry cracks down on gaming

The ‘shutdown system’ which prohibits kids younger than 16 from playing computer games between the hours of 12pm to 6am, passed the Korean parliament on April 20. The shutdown system was proposed by South Korea’s Ministry of Gender Equality and Family Affairs on March 18, and it will start to take effect six months from now. The law will also force one percent of game companies’ revenue to be injected to the ministry fund, which will later be used in preventing gaming addiction.

Korean citizens have strongly opposed the law for over a month now, stressing that the system is neither effective in curing the game addiction, nor constructive for the future of the country’s web development. They even filed two rounds of online petitions [ko] and urged the ministry to halt unnecessary regulations on the internet space.

The petition defined the minitry’s move as ‘a clear abuse of the government power’ and blamed its silence in serious women issues, such as the latest Jang Ja-yeon [suicide actress] case. It further questioned why the ministry let the game industry takes care of the issue by itself as the Game Culture Foundation had already planned to build the addiction prevention facility by themselves to tackle the addiction issue.

Most Koreans agree with the futility of the new system, since young kids will easily circumvent the ministry’s censorship by using their parents’ identities. The age verification process in Korea is mostly done by confirming one’s social security number, which contains a person’s date of birth and most kids already know by heart their parents’ social security numbers.

The Ministry, which usually goes by the name the ‘Women’s Ministry’ among Korean people, has been criticized for over several years now, for both its silence on grave issues such as sex trafficking and sex crimes, and its enthusiasm in nitpicking over relatively trivial matters. After it censored many songs’ lyrics for being offensive to women, ridiculous theories have sprang up; one claiming that the ministry has tried to ban a particular snack brand because of its resemblance to female sexual organs and others suggested that the ministry had tried to block the game Tetris as it reminds people of ‘penetration’ during the sexual intercourse.

Its opposition even calls the ministry’s use of its official English name, ‘Ministry of Gender Equality and Family Affairs‘, is an intended mistake. The direct translation of the Korean name of the ministry(여성가족부) would be the ‘Women and Family Ministry’, without any hidden message or context on the gender equality.

South Korean women are fairly well educated and actively engaged in the economy. However, while local statistics shows that the overall labor participation of women has increased by about 50 percent in 2010, a United Nations report in 2009 ranked South Korean gender equality among the lowest in the developed world, 61st out of 109 countries on the gender empowerment measure (GEM).