South Koreans Campaign Against WHO Branding ‘Excessive Gaming’ a Mental Disorder

Compulsive video-game playing now new mental health problem

South Korean organizations launched a committee Wednesday to oppose moves by the World Health Organization (WHO) to classify addiction to video games as a health disorder.

At a press conference in South Korea’s National Assembly, the committee of 90 organizations and industry figures said it was dismayed by the unanimous decision by WHO member states to adopt the 11th revision to the International Classification of Disease (ICD-11), which declares excessive gaming a mental disorder.

“We regret that we were unable to sufficiently persuade the world of the positive aspects of gaming,” the committee Chairman Wi Jong-hyun, a professor of strategic management at Chung-Ang University, said in his opening statement.

“We gladly accept the prime minister’s proposal to run a discussion body, but believe there must be a wider pool of stakeholders invited to join in the discussion,” he continued. “Our committee was joined by not only those in the game industry but also by various content-producing bodies — we thank the 90 participating organizations.”

Under the WHO definition, a gaming disorder is defined as “a pattern of gaming behavior … characterized by impaired control over gaming [and] increasing priority is given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities.”

The South Korean Health Ministry has said it will include the change when they next update their list of diseases in 2025, a move that has angered the country’s large gaming industry.

Wi affirmed that the committee would pursue legal challenges to push back against any attempts by the government to adopt the World Health Organization’s classification. “If the government pushes for adopting the code, we will consider taking legal action,” he said. “We have already consulted with our lawyers.”

Video game production is one of South Korea’s major industries. A recent survey from Seoul National University estimated that the country could lose $9 billion as a result of the classification. However, excessive gaming remains a serious problem among the country’s population. Numerous reports reveal people suffering from exhaustion or dying as a result of playing for too long.

On Tuesday, the South Korean government confirmed that it would meet with gaming industry figures to discuss the issue. “The government plans to discuss reasonable ways to spread a healthy gaming culture while minimizing the worries of the gaming industry,” they said in a statement. “Along with this, we will support the development of the gaming industry, the key part of the content industry.”

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