Girl Starves to Death as Parents Raise Virtual Child

South Korea is easily the video game capital of the world. With the fastest connections and a huge base of gamers young and old, it is no surprises that the idea of playing games is so integrated into their psyche.

Unfortunately, this also means there are more cases of video games resulting in harmful consequences. Recently a Korean couple, Kim Yoo-chul and Choi Mi-sun, was arrested for the neglect of their 3 month old child as they devoted themselves to hours of playing a computer game which involved of all things, raising a virtual child.

Neglected Infant Dies as Parents Raise a Virtual Child

Prius Online Anima - Infant Korean Girl
Anima Prius Online Screenshot

The 41-year-old man and 25-year-old woman, who they themselves originally met through a chat site, had left their infant unattended for long periods of time as they went to internet cafes to raise their virtual child. They only stopped by to feed their child powdered milk. They arrived home after playing for 12 hours at the local internet cafe to find their infant daughter dead. The police suspected neglect due to the baby’s malnourished body which was later confirmed by an autopsy.

Up until two weeks before the death on Sept 24, 2009, the baby had been taken care of by Kim’s parents as the couple was finding it difficult to take care of their premature baby. As Kim’s mother was ill, the baby was given to the couple for care. After the funeral the couple disappeared for months until they were found on March 2, 2010 at the wife’s parents home in Yangju, Gyeonggi province.

The game is called “Prius Online”. It is a very popular role playing game where you can create a virtual life in a virtual world. You create your character and traverse through life as you interact with other users, find jobs, build a family and so on.

Chung Jin-Won, a police offer said “The couple seemed to have lost their will to live a normal life because they didn’t have jobs and gave birth to a premature baby… they indulged themselves in the online game of raising a virtual character so as to escape from reality, which led to the death of their real baby.”

The case has shocked South Korea once again highlighting obsessive behavior related to the internet.

Other Incidents due to Video Game Obsessions

This is not the first of such incidents involving the obsession over video games.

In 2005, a man died in a internet cafe in Taegu after playing Starcraft for nearly 50 hours straight. He suffered cardiac arrest after not eating or drinking during that time.

In September of 2009, a young man murdered his mother for nagging him about playing too much video games. He then went to a local internet cafe and just continued to play games as if nothing had happened.

Of course these incidents are unique just to Korea as the child that killed his mother over the game of halo was well publicized here in the United States.

As these incidents continue to arise, there has been some movement to battle these dangerous and upsetting trends. Lee Joung-sun, an MP from the ruling Grand National party of South Korea has submitted a bill restricting the hours of online gamers. There are several such bills pending in the national assembly with varied proposals of how to limit teenagers’ time at internet cafes and limits to online game.

What is the Impact of Addictive Video Games on People?

These kind of incidences highlight the uneasy notion how these addictive games, as well as the general increase in internet use, has had a direct impact on the way we live our lives and relate to others. It is easy to point at these perpetrators in shock and blame them for being “neglectful” or “dumb” or even “crazy” while brushing off how the internet as a whole has had some negative impact in society as a whole.

Children from an early age sit in their rooms playing games hours into the night rather than developing their social skills by playing outside with their friends. The negative effects of media usage on children are well documented. As they children consume 7.5 hours of media a day, their worldview in terms of how to understand themselves, understand others, and understand the world are defined by what they see on the screen. Even adults spend hours and hours watching online videos or playing online games as soon as they come home from work. An average American watches 153 hours of TV a month while going online 68 hours a month!

Yes, the perpetrators are at fault and are completely responsible for what they did. However, it really say something about the our ever-pervasive dependence on media as well the status of our culture that these kind of horrible incidences can even occur.

  • What is your reaction to this horrible news?
  • Do you think people will reconsider their behavior due to this incident or brush it off saying it is different?
  • Is it a valid statement that the addictive nature of some video games causes social harm?

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  1. I was pretty shocked when I read about this news. It made me feel sick to my stomach, sad and angry all at the same time. It’s incredible that something like this would have happened to this child. I think this is a clear example of how these video games can get out of hand. But, I also think it’s an example of how people don’t want to deal with reality and prefer to escape from it. I just think it’s really sad for something like this to happen.

  2. What will come next a man marring a video game …Oh yah that has happined already …Maybe some one losing a job because they play video gomes to much oh that hapined already to … I gess the world wont see the problum till they find some vedeophile smow dead in front of his computer because he forgot he needed to eat or drink. I hate that a child had to die but agian those two should not have had a chance to breed and polute the gean pool.

  3. It is terrible what has happened in this case, but there is no need to go on a McCarthy-style crackdown on gamers. Thousands of people game, and only a handful do this or any other thing. The mentally unstable will be mentally unstable. Even without the media that is gaming, people will find ways to hurt, both directly and indirectly, each other. Ever since the creation of video games, violent crimes have gone down overall. So please don’t come around blaming all problems that one gamer caused on all video games.

  4. This is from JO-JO for Shawn as it is your right to you’r apinyon on this it is our right to our’s gameing is fine I Cyber my self but to forget about the life needs of yourself or you’r fellow man or child is a sign of a mental illness or at the lest a hard addection and as such should not be confused or lumpt in with standerd gameing practice or casual game players. You’r right doun’t blame the game .

  5. “The mentally unstable will be mentally unstable. Even without the media that is gaming, people will find ways to hurt, both directly and indirectly, each other.”

    Couldn’t have put it better myself. Cases like this are dreadful and the fact that it actually resulted in the death of the child makes it that much worse. A similar case happened here in the UK recently, a mother became obsessed with a game and allowed her two dogs to starve to death, and only fed her children on food that didn’t need cooking or any other preparation. The children were living in squalor, with the bodies of their pets rotting in the dining room but they’ve since been taken into care and charges brought against the mother. The game itself was not to blame, nor are games inherently bad or damaging. If they were, there would be very few people who could play video games without going off the rails and this backlash against games in particular is quite ridiculous and unhelpful.

    I don’t think anyone will know for certain whether it was wilful neglect but to be honest, I don’t much care whether it was or it wasn’t. I hope the mother gets the help she quite clearly needs but I’m far more concerned about the children. And it isn’t as though neglect only happens when it hits the headlines. It’s happening all the time, which is why I do a lot of fundraising for children charities. Neglect is happening all the time and quite frankly, banning video games is not going to stop it.

    It is a valid statement to say that the addictive nature of some video games CAN cause social harm. It is not a valid statement to say that the addictive nature of some video games WILL cause social harm.

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