SEOUL (KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Children aged 16 or under will be allowed to play online games after midnight if they have their parents' approval starting next year, the Culture and Gender Equality ministries jointly announced Monday.
Under the current law, all Korean teenagers are automatically forced out of online gaming sessions between midnight and 6am.
The revision will allow Korean parents to fully engage in their parental rights while giving the local gaming industry a boost, the ministries said.
The sudden announcement took place just two days before the upcoming "fight regulations" forum to be held on Wednesday by the presidential Blue House.
The public forum, which will be attended by President Park Geun Hye and 150 ministers, business experts and entrepreneurs, is being held to discuss ways to lift unnecessary regulations in the nation's business sector.
It is the second time the Blue House will hold such a forum. The first edition, which was broadcast live on national television on March 20, lasted for seven hours.
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism introduced the current "nighttime shutdown" policy back in 2010, in an attempt to protect young children from online gaming addiction.
The implementation of the policy triggered complaints from the gaming industry as well as a small number of parents, who argued they deserve the right to give their children permission should they think it is appropriate for them to play games after midnight.
Currently, a teenager is automatically denied access to online gaming sites as soon as the clock strikes midnight.
"If a teenager's parents agree that he or she should be allowed to play games after midnight, the child will be allowed to do so," Gender Equality Ministry spokeswoman Lee Ki Soon said during a press conference on Monday.
"And if the parents change their mind and don't want their child to play games after midnight, they can always request for access to be blocked again."
The two ministries plan to submit the revised plan to the National Assembly sometime within this year, and the new policy is likely to take effect starting early next year.
The Culture Ministry runs a team that controls the nation's gaming culture and industry while the Gender Equality Ministry is in charge of youth policies.
The two ministries decided to collaborate on the specific plan after receiving requests from the gaming industry to form a joint control agency over young gamers.
According to Mr Kim Sung Byuk, the Youth Media Environment director at the Gender Equality Ministry, some 30 per cent of gamers aged 16 or under were already playing games after midnight using their parents' IDs last year, with their full approval.
"It is possible for many to think that no parents would want their children to play games late at night," he said.
"But those who play games at night with their parents' IDs have their own set of rules within their family (that prevent them from becoming addicted to computer games). We hope the revised plan will offer an opportunity for family members to come up with their own rules and plans (in regards to playing games at home) and bond with each other as they follow them."