The Korean government is taking action to combat serious problems arising from Internet addiction which has become a serious social issue. Seven related ministries and offices including the Ministry of Public Administration and Security have announced a “Comprehensive Plan to Resolve and Prevent Internet Addiction” also known as the “i-ACTION 2012,” which is a set of measures designed to fight the rise in the number of Internet addicts. The term ACTION stands for Attention, Counseling, Training, Institution, Outcome and Networks. It is known that the Internet addiction rate of Koreans is 8.8%, approximately two million people, according to research conducted by the Ministry of Public Administration and Security in 2009. However, industry experts estimate that the real figure is much higher.
The plan was designed by the government, acknowledging for the first time the seriousness of Internet addiction and its effects on society. The foremost goal of the policy is to reduce Internet addiction to a level below 5% by 2012, by aiming to help establish a life-long, comprehensive coping structure plan for all ages, from children to grownups. The first step is to extend preventive educational programs to 10 million Internet users over the next three years in order to reduce the increasing rate of Internet addiction. The educational programs on Internet addiction prevention have so far only been conducted on 470,000 people aged 9 to 32 (only 2% of Internet users) annually. However, this number will be extended to 5 million by 2012. The plan will mainly target specific groups of children and adults among whom Internet addiction is rapidly spreading. Additionally, preventive educational programs specifically designed for groups, such as kindergarten students soldiers and office workers will be launched. The plan includes strengthening consultation and therapy sessions, and aims to provide constructive and systematic customized counseling for 300,000 people over the next three years. The scale of free counseling services will be expanded nearly ten-fold from the current 25,000 annually (1.3% of target counselee) to 200,000 (10% of target counselee) by 2012, and will divide addicts into three segments depending on their level of addiction, offering appropriate services such as basic counseling, professional counseling and clinic treatments. For isolated segments of society, including the unemployed, single-parent families, low-income families and physically-challenged people, counselors will visit their households to offer them hands-on aid and care.
Furthermore, the Korean government plans to link addiction prevention programs with the nurturing of professional human resources in a bid to create more jobs, which is another area that the government is seeking solutions to. In order for the programs to proceed, 4,000 addiction prevention instructors and counselors are needed, in addition to 6,000 highly-educated but unemployed young adults who will be hired as IT Study Hall Mentors, teaching appropriate Internet usage and helping students with their academic studies.
The problems with Internet addiction surfaced last month when the infant of a young couple, who were online game addicts, died because of their negligence. The infant was left unattended and not fed while the online game-addicted parents were busy taking care of their online, virtual-baby. This is in addition to a male in his twenties who murdered his own mother after she scolded him for playing online computer games too much. Internet addicts are known to be often confused between reality and the online virtual world, causing many serious problems including maladjustment to society, deep attachment to the virtual world, health issues, and conflict with family members.