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A three-month-old South Korean girl starved to death after her parents repeatedly left her alone for 12-hour stretches to rendezvous at a local Internet cafe, where they were nurturing a virtual child through a computer game known as “Prius Online.”
The 41-year-old father and 25-year-old mother found their real child dead after returning from the cafe. The autopsy revealed that the baby died of prolonged malnutrition.
While online, the couple were raising a virtual daughter seemingly as a form of escapism from their own lives. Both parents recently became unemployed and their baby had been born prematurely, which is taboo in South Korean culture and considered the parents’ fault.
Chung Jin-won, a police officer in Suwon, a suburb of the nation’s capital, Seoul, told the Yonhap News Agency, “The couple seemed to have lost their will to live a normal life, because they didn’t have jobs and gave birth to a premature baby…They indulged themselves in the on-line game of raising a virtual character so as to escape from reality, which led to the death of their real baby.”
Approximately 96 percent of South Koreans regard Internet access as a “fundamental right” and 15 million—30 percent of the population—play online games, according to BBC News.
In 2005, a 28-year-old South Korean man collapsed and died while playing a video game for 50 hours straight, with little food and sleep.
For more in-depth study on the effects video games have on society, read our article “Video Games – An Escape From Reality?”