South Korean games firms slam WHO decision to recognise gaming disorder as disease

A committee said the decision would "deprive a child's right to play", as decreed in Article 31 of the United Nation's Convention on Rights of the Child. PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL (THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - South Korean games companies reacted angrily on Sunday (May 26) to the World Health Organisation's decision to officially recognise gaming disorder as a disease.

A committee comprising 88 organisations, including the labour union of 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 Nation's Convention on Rights of the Child.

"We will do everything in our power to resist the domestic adoption of the 'gaming disorder'," the committee announced 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 the academia, labour unions and game associations, as well as 32 universities nationwide with game-related curriculums, said through a statement: "This is a crisis for the entire Korean content industry."

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

"The game industry and academia are not free from responsibility given the 20-year history of gaming in Korea," the committee admitted. "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 will hold a press event on Wednesday at the National Assembly to outline its upcoming moves against the WHO decision.

On Saturday, members of WHO unanimously voted for the adoption of the 11th revision to the International Classification of Disease, or ICD-11, at the 72nd World Health Assembly held May 20 through 28 in Geneva, Switzerland.

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.

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