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In Korea, is being addicted to video games cause for a military exemption?

An early policy amendment has suggested that video game addicts may be exempt from mandatory military service but so far, no one has qualified for the exemption.

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Amidst recent debates in Korea discussing the potential passing of a Video Game Addiction Bill, a proposition that would legally interpret video games as a vice much like drugs and alcohol, the online community has shed light to a policy amendment made by the Military Manpower Administration back in 2010 that would exempt video game addicts from satisfying their mandatory military service.

In a country where all able-bodied males are required to serve at least 21 months of military service, this comes as a significant revelation, especially considering how popular video games are among Korean males.

According to the "Regulations Relating to the Discharge of Military Public Service," exemption from mandatory military service may be granted if the person has "received six or more months of treatment for alcohol, drug, or video game addiction and has demonstrated ineptitude of carrying out normal duties."

In response, the Military Manpower Administration has stated that "there has not been a single person so far who has qualified for exemption due to video game addiction and those who do qualify would have to go through additional physical and psychological testing."

Furthermore, the amendment was made before video game addiction became a national issue and that there is currently no concrete assessment method for identifying video game addicts.

If the Korean legislature does end up passing the Video Game Addiction Bill, many believe that the possibility of exemption due to video game addiction is a very real possibility. It is only logical to develop a more scientific approach to identifying video game addiction if video games are deemed equivalent to drugs.

Recently, in June, video game addiction was listed as one of the causes for a Korean soldier who shot five members of his unit on an army base located on the border between North and South Korea. The fugitive soldier, identified as Sgt. Lim, fled his base and was later found wounded from a self-inflicted gunshot.