I honestly shouldn’t be shocked by what I read in this article at Forbes.com, but the unpretty picture that it paints about the net in Korea is kind of surprising… and perhaps misguided.
I am very surprised to see that 60% of divorces cite infidelity with people met online as their causes. This is a shocking statistic… but I don’t think there is anything magical about the internet that induces adultery. I am skeptical that the marriages were so good to begin with, and I think probably infidelity was a major citation of the cause of divorce in the past as well. What does one expect when parents so often pressure their kids to marry soon, when people plan to marry at a given age (rather than when they find the right partner), and when couples so often marry for questionable reasons (men seeking beauty, women seeking men with the most assets and prestige).
The image of an army of unemployed men playing video games is disturbing, but then again the net addiction may be a symptom of something more than what’s wrong with the net: it could be that bolder measures need to be made to ensure that jobs and wealth flow in Korean society. Young men are so very strongly pressured to get the best job and many young women who would be willing to work find themselves having to marry instead because work is just so scarce here.
As for cybercrime, I hate to say it but I don’t mind cybercrime as much as petty crime. Petty crimes tend to go unsolved or even sometimes uninvestigated. Petty crimes affect individuals. Major crimes tend to get a lot of attention, are investigated, and are pursued rather more seriously because of the pressure that companies thus victimized can exert on the law enforcement system. I am saying that I’d rather see Daewoo hacked than see my neighbour mugged, because nobody seems to give a damn if my neighbour gets mugged.
As for people dying because of 86 hours of continuous gameplay, I think this sort of thing is troubling, but why doesn’t anyone worry about all the deaths caused by traffic fatalities here? Did people suggest the banning of cars, which routinely kill, maim, and immobilize many people in Korea each year? It’s difficult to say for sure, but boosting net access and banning cars might increase productivity by reducing involvement in office politics, eliminating the odious commitments of salarymen to routine drinking sessions with workmates (which kills efficiency not only during hung-over day-afters but also during periods of domestic problems related to the husband’s continual absence in the home), and sparing a huge number of temporary recuperation periods from a great number of needless traffic injuries occuring during the common commute that many people must make to work. But nobody is planning on banning cars in Korea.
So I think the Forbes article is wrongheadedly citing the Internet as the cause of all of these problems when more likely, Koreans’ relations to the Net reflect other problems in their society.
By the way, I originally found the link for this article at the blog of a Korean writing in English over at Xtreme Think Tank. Check out this interesting blog (the link is for the post about the article, but you can browse around to find other interesting things here)!
(Unfortunately, I cannot leave comments on Doug Yeum’s blog, and neither can you unless you are a Korean citizen. You need a Korean national ID to get an account at HanMir. Quite retarded, one of those simple systemic blocks in thinking that Korean companies will need to get around in the next fifty years if they want to be competitive on the world scale. Which they perhaps could be, since they’re experienced in having a kind of amazingly high-bandwidth-available population that most of the rest of the world only dreams about…)
Also found on the Xtreme Think Tank: Korea’s going Linux. And it’s a joint venture with China and Japan, supposedly committed to Open Source. Wow.