South Korean game firms slam WHO's move to label gaming disorder as disease

Video game players using virtual reality headsets in Seoul. The new WHO guidelines on gaming go into effect from January 2022. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG
Video game players using virtual reality headsets in Seoul. The new WHO guidelines on gaming go into effect from January 2022. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

SEOUL • South Korean game companies reacted angrily yesterday to the World Health Organisation's (WHO) decision to officially recognise gaming disorder as a disease.

A committee comprising 88 organisations, including the labour union of South Korea's biggest game company Nexon, opposed the decision, saying it would "deprive a child's right to play", as decreed in Article 31 of the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of the Child.

"We will do everything in our power to resist the domestic adoption of the 'gaming disorder'," the committee said in a statement.

Article 31 recognises "the right of children to rest and leisure, to engage in playing and recreational activities appropriate to their age", and respects and promotes a child's right to "participate fully in cultural and artistic life".

The committee, comprising 56 organisations in academic, labour union and gaming associations, as well as 32 universities nationwide with game-related curriculum, said in its statement: "This is a crisis for the entire Korean content industry."

It added that gaming is the right of teenagers, but the WHO decision to officially designate it as a disease gives teenagers a sense of guilt when playing video games. The decision also greatly limits the ability of game developers and content creators to freely express creativity, it said.

"We regret that we were unable to enhance the image of gaming in the minds of the general public, and will do our best to reinvent the overall environment for better recognition," the committee added.

 
 
 

It will hold a press event on Wednesday at the National Assembly to outline its upcoming moves against the WHO decision.

On Saturday, WHO members unanimously voted for the adoption of the 11th revision to the International Classification of Disease, or ICD-11, at the 72nd World Health Assembly in Geneva.

The ICD-11 defines addiction as an "impaired control over gaming" to the extent that it is "evident for at least 12 months" and "results in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning".

The new guidelines will go into effect from January 2022, by which time the WHO member nations will need to have devised measures to treat and prevent gaming disorder.

THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 27, 2019, with the headline 'S. Korean game firms slam WHO's move to label gaming disorder as disease'. Print Edition | Subscribe