Home / Gaming / South Korea's lost generation of gamers offer a preview of what's to come – TNW

South Korea's lost generation of gamers offer a preview of what's to come – TNW

South Korea is bending under the weight of an epidemic. In the world’s most wired country, it’s not opioids or hallucinogens to blame, but the constant call of a connected society.

Estimates vary, but South Korea — home to 51 million people — now has about a million internet-addicted children and teens. About one in 10. Some call the estimate conservative, claiming the actual number is closer to 50 percent, or five million people aged 10 to 19. In an interview with Vice, Dr. Lee Jae-Won, a neuropsychiatrist at Gagnam Eulji Hospital in Seoul said that online gaming accounts for roughly 90 percent of these internet addiction cases.

In this small country — a touch smaller than the state of Virginia — the gaming economy is set to surpass 12 trillion won ($11 billion USD) at some point next year. That’s about a third the size of the US market — a country six times larger. Korea’s problem, though, will one day be the US’ problem. And without the foresight that comes with identifying and planning for it, we could be in for a world of hurt.

The issue, perhaps, is one of availability. Koreans can’t walk more than a few blocks without running into one of more than 20,000 “PC bangs,” the gaming equivalent of an opium den, with hard drugs replaced by networked PCs, melodic K-Pop, and a death trap of criss-crossing Ethernet cables. This, in Korea, is the preferred method of gaming. And for about a dollar an hour, gamers can plug in and play, LAN-style, to their hearts’ content.