Korean Boot Camp Hopes to Curb Internet Addiction
By David Silverberg, Digital Journal
Imagine someone is addicted to the Internet so obsessively, boot camp is the only option.
It's a reality many South Koreans face, prompting the launch of a camp to deal with a mental illness not so uncommon to South Korea: Internet addiction.
In a country where 90 per cent of homes are connected to high-speed broadband, where online gaming is a professional sport, where people die after playing video games for 50 hours straight, it's an understatement to say South Korea is addicted to the Net.
South Koreans have recognized their Web fixation by opening a camp designed to wean the afflicted off their love of technology.
The Jump Up Internet Rescue School is modeled after a boot camp where computer and cellphone use is prohibited.
Campers follow a regimen of physical exercise, such as horseback riding, to strengthen their real-life emotional connections with other campers.
Lee Yun-hee, a camp counselor, remarked:
"It is most important to provide them experience of a lifestyle without the Internet. Young Koreans don't know what this is like."
The campers are under surveillance to make sure they don't sneak away to steal some online time. Also, campers are kept busy by doing chores they would normally do around the house.
Along with the camp, South Korea is also exploring other ways to curb Internet addiction.
Many counseling and treatment programs are available for the Web obsessed, with researchers developing a checklist to determine the severity of the obsession. Also, in September, South Korea organized the first international conference on Internet addiction.
A 2005 government-led study found that half a million South Koreans are clinically addicted to the Internet. Up to 30 per cent of South Korean children under 18 are at risk of Internet addiction.
Koh Young-sam, head of the government-run Internet Addiction Counseling Center, told media:
"Korea has been most aggressive in embracing the Internet. Now we have to lead in dealing with its consequences."