Documentary: "Love Child" Examines South Korean Gaming Addiction Through a Harrowing Tale.

Love Child chronicals the true story of two "gaming addicted" parents whose neglect lead to the death of their child.

A new Sundance Film Festival documentary entitled "Love Child" chronicles the story of how a 3-month-old South Korean child, named Sarang, died from malnutrition.  This infant did not die from poverty, but instead, from lack of care she received from her parents who were spending up to 10 hours a night -- after a full day of work -- playing an online game in a cybercafe located Suwon, South Korea.  Director Valerie Veatch's documentary gets even more twisted when it's revealed that the game they were playing involved taking care of a virtual child.

The couple's lawyer claimed the two parents suffered from an alcohol and gambling addiction, a defense that proved successful.  The father, 41-year-old Kim Jae-beoum, landed only two years in prison -- while the mother, Kim Yun-jeong, 25, had her sentence suspended due to the fact she was pregnant with the couple's second child.  

The landmark decision is one of the most debated rulings among South Korean policy-makers.  With no real precedent in murder by online gaming addiction, legislation was introduced in December to place gaming addiction along with gambling, alcohol, and drugs as a vice -- all of which are funded by taxes for treatment.

A look inside a PC Bang -- a 24-hour South Korean cybercafe where many patrons spend countless hours playing online games.   

Instead of chastising the negligence of the parents, Veatch explores what factors contributed to the couple's gaming addiction.  One of these factors is how South Korea has nestled itself as the world's leading internet infrastructure.  Most recently, news emerged from the country that a 5G wireless service -- capable of downloading a film in seconds anywhere in the country -- is on the horizon.

Along with the fastest internet in the world, South Korea also boasts one of the most sizable gaming fan bases in the world.  With television stations dedicated to StarCraft streaming, the celebrity behind being a famous South Korean gamer, and widely popular MMOs such as Ragnarok Online, Lineage, and Maple Story, it's hard to be truly shocked that a tragic story like the one of young Sarang is possible.  By the way, the name Sarang means "love" in Korean.  

Published Jan. 24th 2014
  • Capt. Eliza Creststeel
    Horribly tragic. Apparently marathon gaming in cafes is big across Asia as the recent stories on Chinese gaming attribute. No game is worth that level of time and money dedication. I do realize that China now considers internet and gaming addiction as serious as drug use, but it's a conscious decision.

    Unlike heroin, etc. where there is a physical craving and withdrawal symptoms, putting down the mouse has only positive results. You get to be more productive, social and maybe even improve hygiene.

    They should look into studying the ego effects of gaming and need to feel competitive, the need to feel needed or wanted, etc. For 4+ years, I headed up a gaming guild that practically consumed me day-to-day. Recently, I've had a couple of former members asking about starting a new group in other games, etc. I declined. I can't imagine going back now to that level.

    Hopefully this story will inspire some people to push keyboard away for a while.

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