Sunday, October 30, 2011

Shutdown Law. What exactly is it?


Many people have been asking me about the new regulation that will be imposed in South Korea known as "Shutdown Law". Hence, I felt like I needed to write a post about what exactly this new "Shutdown Law" is. In a nutshell, this law states that anyone who is not an adult (Initially under 19 in Korean age, now ratified to be under 16) will not be able to play any online games from midnight to 6AM.

You mean.... I can't do my grinding anymore for 6 hours a day???!?!?

This law is sprouting many controversies and heated up debates inside Korea. Gaming is so popular and prevalent in Korean society that just about anyone from the ages of 10 to mid 20s can be seen playing any type of online game. These days, it is not uncommon to see people in 30s or even 40s playing online games. There is not one but two channels dedicated to showing matches between professional gamers on television. It is not too difficult to see why such a regulation would cause up such a stir, but wait, it's just not about forcefully logging those pesky kids off from their games. Oh no, there's a lot more dirt we can uncover here.

(More after the jump)




The Shutdown Law Itself and Gaming Addiction in Korea

PC Cafes in South Korea can be seen in just about every other corner.

The notion of this law is to ban youths aged under 16 from playing online games from midnight to 6AM in order to control the prevalent gaming addiction. The attempt to legislate the law actually began from 2004 majorly by KYWA (Korea Youth Work Agency) but also backed by YMCA and YWCA. From to 2005 to 2006 a hearing was brought up to the Korean congress as the KYWA tried to legislate the law but eventually did not get passed.

The second and more serious attempt for the legislation began in 2008 by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, one of the cabinet-level division of the government. Back when the law was initially introduced, it did not contain the exact details of "how the online games will be regulated to counteract the gaming addiction problem in South Korea". In late 2010, the legislation was quickly amended containing the details of completely preventing anyone under the age of 19 to be logged on any online games, then changed to under the age of 16 shortly after.

Finally, on April of 2011, the legislation was passed by the congress, so only the presidential sanction is necessary to fully enact the law at this point.

Before October 26th, the classification of online games were "any form of PC games that is able to connect via network", which included CD games such as Starcraft and Warcraft 3 but because of Blizzard's recent announcement of shutting down the entire network during those hours if the law gets enacted which will prevent even adults from logging on, the law was amended again to encompass only the "non CD-based online games".

As stated from before, ever since 1998 as South Korea walked its path towards being the most-wired country in the world, the country has seen an explosive increase in the gaming industry. Today, South Korean gaming industries such as Nexon and NCSoft are renowned for making quality online games such as Lineage, Mabinogi, Aion, which is now becoming one of the most played MMORPGs worldwide. 

The proliferation of the gaming industry did not come without several side effects. Online games have become the new drug of choice for many people in South Korea, not only to the youth but to many adults as well. The addiction has taken cases to the extreme of (1)people dying (2)while playing video games. The addiction problem is definitely prevalent, real and something needs to be done about it.


Problems and Controversies regarding the law

While I do heartily agree with the notion of controlling the gaming addiction, I find the entire purpose of this law delusional, fundamentally incorrect and threatening for the following reasons:

  1. Ineffective
    This one is really self explanatory. There are many ways to get around the law should they have the urge. For one, all of the online games' age verification method relies on checking the Korean Social Security Number linked with the account. It is entirely possible to create an account using one of the parent's Social Security Number to get around the age requirement. (In fact, from personal experience I haven't yet seen a single person who doesn't know their parents' Korean SSN. It's a very easy number to remember in general).

    There's also an option to log on to foreign servers if the youths really wanted to play within those hours, and it's obviously impossible to impose regulations on logging onto foreign servers.

    Not only that, there are also console games to be considered about. In fact, for consoles you can even connect to PSN or XBOX LIVE to play online.

    I'm still not finished. As stated earlier, CD games such as Starcraft and Warcraft 3 will not be regulated at all. Must I even mention the popularity of those games in South Korea?

    Finally, there also exist many offline games that can be played on the computer.

    So as you can see from above, there are ample number of ways which anyone with a brain can get around the law with ease. This is a serious waste of budget to even consider controlling addiction problem in this manner - it's simply impossible. This is as pointless and as ridiculous as 18th Amendmend of the U.S. constitution - Prohibition of Alcohol - people will get what they want in the end even if it is prohibited but this... they don't even have to make much effort to get what they want!.... Nobody wants their tax money being wasted on retarded measures such as this.


  2. Jeopardizing gaming industry growth and severe impact on small businesses

    Statistically speaking, only 18 or under account for 29% of online gamers, and less than 20% for those under the age of 16. The number of those in the age group playing between midnight and 6 a.m. is definitely less. Logistically speaking, the immediate economical effect on online game companies will be minimal.

    However, this is only half the picture. The move will increase management costs for game companies. They will have to shoulder the expense of the shutdown system, meaning they have to increase servers and disk space to store personal information, strengthen the identification method and strengthen the security.

    The measure will reflect very negatively on online games in general. On top of criticism in the local market, it is expected that the shutdown law will hamper the export of games, as it may encourage the idea abroad that Korean games are harmful.


  3. Violation of FTA and political side effects

    The idea of "Because games are harmful for Youth, we should stop them from playing it" is far insufficient from actually regulating foreign companies (assuming that the company is from the country which FTA is being enacted upon) providing online game service in Korea. Hence, regulating those games would mean a violation of FTA but not regulating those games would mean that the purpose of the Shutdown Law is being completely ignored to meet up with the demands of foreign companies.

    Right now, there really isn't any significant foreign company other than Blizzard servicing in South Korea, but then again FTA between US and Korea has been agreed recently and will be enacted next year. In this case, the Ministry of Gender Equality have ratified the law but they will be forced to do this for just about any other foreign companies, definitely giving those companies an edge over Korean companies (also economically detrimental).


  4. Regulation is carried out by the Ministry of Gender Equality.

    This is simply the biggest reason why I oppose this regulation
    . The fact that anything is ever done by the Ministry of Gender Equality makes me vomit, especially in this particular case. You may be asking "why so much hate on a cabinet?" but if anyone is a Korean or have lived in Korea for long enough, it is more than granted that they say a thing or two horrible about this department.

    First of all, the name of "Ministry of Gender Equality" is VERY misleading. The official name in Korean is 여성가족부 which directly translates into Ministry of WOMEN and Family. These feminist group is the extremist "party" of Korea that tries to mock our government as much as possible. In fact, I don't even understand why this ministry exists to begin with and why this ministry has not been eliminated yet.


    Even the women hate this Ministry and want to see it gone so they go on a strike
    (Sign says "Condemn and reduce the size of
    Ministry of Gender Equality filled with facade")

    I can endlessly go on about the most inexplicable, retarded s!$t done by this ministry but some of the highlights were:

    I. Extravagant Spending

    Estimated spending of Ministry of Gender Equality turned out to be near 100,000,000,000 Won (90,694,723 USD) because of the extravagant spending they do. This department does NOTHING significant in general and thers is NO REASON for these people to even need that much money. For instance, they spent 96,458,500 Won (87,500 USD) on a single day for a new year's party, spent 350,000,000 won (317,000 USD) making a website, spent 15,700,000 Won (14,240 USD) buying vases for their office. Yeahhhhhhh..... When the congress requested for a detailed report and receipt of their spending, These f$!%&s simply dismissed them by saying "We spent it for the welfare of the society", and when the congressmen insisted that they show the receipts, oh you have to love the reply "Why do you want to know so much? You can't trust our work at all? We're trying to bring justice to the society, are you sexist or something???" or something along that line.

    II. Neutrality issue

    This ministry is always one sided towards women, to the degree where it seems ridiculous to even women. Any amendment of laws they try to make is either greatly beneficial to Women or very unfair to Men. Did you know that Women are legally allowed to take paid vacation every month for being on a period in South Korea and Ministry of Gender Equality is even trying to increase the days from three to four per month? This is the only country which even allows people to take days off for being on a period. (Note: Paid Vacation part depends on the company. Generally, government related workers gets a paid vacation while workers in private firms do not.) Lol.

    To be honest, other than the fact that many Women tries to misuse that and actually lie on their days of period to maximize the number of days they can take off (for instance, one might request it on a Wednesday so they can have a 5 day weekend.. lol), I don't have much against this law. Sure, it sounds iffy but I don't know the pain of working during a period and I heard that shit sucks a lot so I'm really not going to go against this so much.

    But now the shit comes down to the issue regarding compulsory military service. Any Korean national is required to serve in the military for two years. For their hard work, they are minimally compensated by being granted with whats known as a "bonus point", about 3~5% extra points (Each candidate is graded when being recruited and they are selected based on the grade). Guess what? Yeah, the Ministry of Gender Equality did everything to close it down and they did. What's funnier is that first they tried to repeal the law by stating that women aren't given the same opportunity as men for serving in the military but the argument was relatively weak because if they really wanted to, they can through many other available programs such as ROTC or OCS. In the end, the law was repealed on the grounds that handicapped people are not able to serve in the military.




    III. Incompetency

    So you may be asking me, "What does this ministry do?" Answer is nothing. No, really, I'm not trolling, they do nothing. You may say "C'mon, this is still a cabinet of South Korean government, surely it must do something!" Nope. Zit, Nada. Does nothing. Trust me.

    If you are asking "What are they SUPPOSED to do", I mean their said objective is to bring equality amongst males and females and to protect the welfare of all families in South Korea, but nothing in reality have been achieved about what they have promised. For instance, about 7 years ago there was a seriously depraved case about 5 middle schoolers being massively raped by over 40 men for over a year. Ministry of Gender Equality advocated that the victims needs to be protected, compensated and justice needs to be brought to the perpetrators but in reality, nothing was done by the ministry.

    So there you have it. I realize that I've gone off the tangent describing this department in details but hopefully I could share the frustration most people are feeling. Majority of Koreans including myself considers the existence of this ministry to be the bane of South Korea. It's like a tumor that needs to be surgically removed. The fact that Shutdown law is being carried out by this department is sincerely bad enough.

    Personally, I don't think they are carrying this law out simply because they wanted to stop addiction. I didn't mention this until now, but Ministry of Gender Equality have demanded 200,000,000,000 Won (181,390,000 USD) from the budget and from the income of gaming industries to operate and carry out the regulation as properly as possible. WTF?
    Everyone at the congressional meeting was at a loss of words. Their justification was that the sum of the money accounts to only 1% of the gaming industries earnings. Someone demanded to the Ministry of Gender Equality to show such statistics but to the end, they couldn't. But to even call out a huge sum of money like that, for this law? Totally senseless and unjustifiable.

    Furthermore, you can see that the law was amended many times. Because Blizzard "threatened" to shut down their service completely during the shutdown hours (which would've really fucked with small business owners who run PC cafes), Ministry had no choice but to exempt CD based games. It is clear that the interest of this department is to go extravagant with the extra moolah they are going to have, not to actually control the addiction problem.




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