The World Health Organization’s recent decision to recognize gaming disorder as a mental health issue in the most recent revision of its International Classification of Diseases manual (ICD-11) appears to have caused something of a schism within the South Korean government. According to a recent report from the Korea Herald, the country’s Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Welfare disagree over the validity of the WHO’s ruling, with the former arguing that the classification lacks adequate scientific backing while the latter stands by the decision.
In an emergency panel called by the Ministry of Culture in response to the WHO’s decision and the Ministry of Welfare’s support thereof, General Director of the Gaming Division of the Korea Creative Content Agency Kang Kyong-seog said, “We regret that our Ministry of Welfare joined the WHO meeting as our country representative and agreed with making gaming addiction a disease.” The Ministry of Culture highlights concerns that the WHO classification “may have a labeling effect on the gaming industry that may cripple innovation in virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence and big data analysis” as well as having a negative impact on the South Korean economy. One recent academic study concluded that the WHO’s classification of gaming disorder could cause the country economic damage to the tune of over $9 billion.
Although the Ministry of Welfare and many South Korean parents’ groups support the WHO’s decision, the debate has nevertheless prompted the nation’s Office for Government Policy Coordination to form a consultative group that aims to “minimize the concerns from [the] game industry and seek reasonable ways to settle a healthy gaming culture,” according to the South Korean prime minister’s secretariat. The dissent from the Ministry of Culture and South Korean game industry professionals joins that of numerous other industry groups such as the ESA, UKIE, and HEVGA, among others.