July 15, 2024


[MUSAI] What Moved the Korean Gov’t to Abolish the Online Game Curfew?



‘Shutdown law’, which is an online game curfew, has been abolished in Korea last month. The anti-gaming rule has been controversial throughout its implementation, and it took 10 years to conclude the abolition. Behind this decision, the changed gaming environment has been pointed out as the biggest reason. In this article, we will take a look at the factors that moved the Korean government to terminate the law in detail.


The ‘shutdown law’ is a curfew on online gaming for teenagers. Gamers under 16 were banned from playing online games between midnight to 6 am. The game is blocked at 12 o’clock and that’s why it is also known as the “Cinderella Law”.

[Image 1] The ‘shutdown law’ was known as the ‘Cinderella law’ because the online game is blocked at 12 o’clock. (Source: Musai Studio)


The online gaming curfew has been controversial since it was first introduced in Korea. It was implemented to prevent teenagers from late-night gaming on PC that would cause sleep disorders and game addiction. However, it has constantly been criticized that the law has restricted teenagers’ basic rights and hindered the development of the gaming industry. After years of debate, the Korean government finally announced its plans to abolish the shutdown law and only operate a ‘choice system’ which lets teens under 18 and their guardians decide gaming rules for themselves and set up the time to block the game.


As a first reason behind the abolition of the shutdown law, there was an issue regarding its validity. The gaming environment has been changed from PC to mobile phones which allow gamers to freely access online games wherever they want, and so mobile games have already become dominant in Korea. The public has become more skeptical about the effectiveness of the anti-gaming rule that only regulates PC games in spite of the new gaming landscape.


In addition, according to a report written by the National Assembly’s 4th Industrial Revolution Committee in 2019, the shutdown law increased the sleeping hours of adolescents by only 90 seconds despite its original intention – guaranteeing their sleeping time.  

[Image 2] The current gaming environment centered on mobile games has the public question the effectiveness of the shutdown law that regulates online PC games only. (Source: Musai Studio)


Moreover, the perception of the adult generation on gaming has been changed and it can be another reason. The current adult generation experienced the shutdown law when they were teenagers and now became parents who raise children. They have a different perspective from their parents’ generation who believed in the negative effects of gaming. An official in the gaming industry said, “The game generation who played ‘StarCraft’ in the past became parents now and it seems that the change of generation stimulates politicians to change their strategy to attract voters” and “This generation has a high level of understanding of gaming and even enjoy playing games with their kids”, he explained.

[Image 3] The game generation who enjoyed ‘StarCraft’ in the past has become the parent generation for now. (Source: Blizzard Entertainment)


At last, a ripple effect of ‘Minecraft’, one of the world’s best-selling video games puts the end to the long-lasting debate of the shutdown law. Last July, Microsoft, the publisher of Minecraft, claimed, “For players in South Korea, you must be 19 years of age or older to purchase and play the Java edition of Minecraft.” They chose to avoid the regulation instead of bothering to create a separate server in Korea. As a result, many Koreans, not only teenagers but also their parents, joined the public opinion to get rid of the shutdown law. A petition posted on the presidential office website to ask for abolition has gained more than 100,000 signatures.

[Image 4] The screenshot of ‘Minecraft’ and the petition on posted on the presidential office website to oppose to label Minecraft as an adult game (Source: Minecraft official webpage and the presidential office website)


Now, the outdated gaming curfew has gone into history. However, as mentioned earlier, the selective shutdown system remains. Of course, we have made fair progress so far but there is still a long way to go when we look around the countries that choose the self-regulation of individuals and families. In the past decade, the changes and development of the gaming environment in Korea brought the present result and progress. Furthermore, it is expected that the Korean government will constantly put efforts to foster the gaming industry and proper gaming culture. We hope those small steps lead the opportunity to further spread the value of games in terms of cultural and industrial side.


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