A South Korean couple identified as the “Kims”, (their first names are protected under law), were arrested on Wednesday for child neglect. Their three month old infant died of malnourishment, according to autopsy reports.
This sad story begins last year. The Kims’ daughter was born in June of 2009 prematurely. The Kims themselves were heavy online gamers. They often spent their time at internet cafes called “PC Bangs“. On the night in question, in September of 2009, the Kims had been out at a PC bang for twelve hours: all night. They came back in the morning to find their three-month daughter dead.
It was likely the autopsy of the infant that called into question the parents culpability; starving to death is no accident. The Kims confessed to police that they had been feeding the infant spoiled powdered milk, and often spanked the crying baby.
In a cruel twist, the couple were actually spending their time raising a virtual daughter in an online game called PRIUS.
Sadly, stories like these only give video game nay-sayers more ammo to use against gaming advocates. According to the Korean Game Industry Agency, roughly half of the Korean population plays online games regularly, reports ABC news. The gaming atmosphere likely very different there than it is here in the United States, where things like video game arcades aren’t as popular or common. What’s more, according to the ABC report, the couple met in 2008 in an internet chat site. Throughout their marriage, both were unemployed, and living with the wife’s parents. The ABC news article delves into what is called “game addiction”. Unfortunately despite the “awareness” that ABC news is trying to evoke, the issue is much more complicated than simple “addiction”. That parents could be addicted to anything enough to neglect their child is an issue in and of itself, nevermind what the parents are addicted to.
There are a lot of questions that this incident raises, especially when one considers the nation and their culture. According to ABC news, the husband was 41 years old, and the wife was 25. How normal is such an age-gap between couples in Korea? Were the individuals raised under traditional social norms? Were they more “Americanized”? Were they even native to Korea? Did the fact that the child was premature effect them, even minutely? Quite simply, we don’t know.
There is very little information to make assumptions with, or even hazard guesses. In the end it is unfortunate that this tragedy happened to involve video-gamer parents.