News Asia-Pacific

Saturday 20 September 2014

Couple let their baby starve to death after they become addicted to online game that lets them care for virtual baby

Published 21/07/2014 | 21:30

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The story of Kim and his wife, Kim Yun-jeong, and the death of their baby is the subject of a new HBO documentary, ‘Love Child’

A South Korean couple let their baby die after they became consumed in an internet game that let them care for a virtual baby in 12-hour online binges.

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Father Kim Jae-beom told police he ‘wasn’t sure’ what killed his daughter, but the cause of death was established as malnutrition as a result of her parents’ gaming addiction.

The story of Kim and his wife, Kim Yun-jeong, and the death of their baby is the subject of a new HBO documentary, ‘Love Child’, which investigates online gaming in South Korea where an estimated 2 million people are addicted to the phenomenon .

The couple spent six to 12-hour online binges caring for a mini-avatar, virtual baby called Anima, which players earned after reaching a certain level in the popular video game Prius.

A policewoman, who features in the documentary, described the scene at Kims’ house as ‘terrible’.

The child, who had dropped significantly in weight since she was born, was found lying in a crib with a blanket pulled  over her.

They were arrested for the death of their baby girl, called Sarang, in September 2009. It was the first known fatality from gaming addiction in South Korea.

Using addiction as a defence, Kim Jae-beom received two years behind bars and his wife received a three-year suspended sentence.

The case, now five years old, has been followed by several other similar stories. In April, a 22-year-old father was arrested for neglecting his toddler son while he played online games for ten days.

The Kims’ made a living by selling the virtual money they earned online to people who wished to ‘cheat’ through the game’s levels.

The system of ‘gold farming’ is a popular way for talented gamers to make money.

South Korea is now attempting to tackle the growing addiction and online gaming addicts can now seek treatment.

It has been made illegal for children under the age of 16 to play online games between midnight and 6am and they are also attempting to pass legislation that will group gaming with other anti-social addictions.

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