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Korean Government Announces Plans to Abolish Shutdown System and Create Healthy Gaming Environment for Juveniles

2021.09.03

On August 25, 2021, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family (the “Relevant Ministries”) jointly announced the “Plans to Abolish Shutdown System and Create Healthy Gaming Environment for Juveniles” (the “Announcement”). 

At present, juveniles’ playtime of game products are regulated in Korea as follows: (i) the shutdown system uniformly prohibits the provision of Internet games to juveniles under the age of 16 from 12:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. (Article 26 of the Youth Protection Act) (the “Shutdown System”); and (ii) the selective gaming hours system allows juveniles under the age of 18 or their legal representatives to place restrictions on how and when juveniles may use game products, among others (Article 12-3 of the Game Industry Promotion Act) (the “Selective Game Hours System”).  

The key to the recent announcement is to abolish the Shutdown System and consolidate regulations on juveniles’ game use into the Selective Game Hours System.  

  • Abolishment of Shutdown System:  The Announcement does not automatically abolish the Shutdown System—rather, it announced that the Relevant Ministries would take measures to abolish the Shutdown System.  As the Shutdown System is stipulated in the Juvenile Protection Act, the abolishment would become effective only upon the amendment of the Juvenile Protection Act at the National Assembly.  While it is difficult to predict when this would occur, given that (i) the Relevant Ministries formalized the abolishment of the Shutdown System and announced their plan to immediately begin pursuing such abolishment this year, (ii) members of both the ruling party and opposition party have proposed a bipartisan bill to abolish the Shutdown System, and (iii) the presidential election is scheduled for April next year, it is expected that the Juvenile Protection Act will be amended, and the Shutdown System will be abolished, at the end of this year or early next year.

  • Promotion of Selective Game Hours System:  Meanwhile, the Relevant Ministries proposed in the Announcement a number of measures to prevent any side effects that may arise from sudden deregulation, one of which is to strengthen the Selective Game Hours System from 2022.  The Relevant Ministries announced ideas to supplement certain parts of the Selective Game Hours System, but further monitoring is warranted as specific plans for implementation have yet to be developed.  However, as the Relevant Ministries stated that they will inspect service providers of their compliance with the Selective Game Hours System through the Game Rating and Administration Committee, service providers would need to have a sufficient understanding of and properly comply with the Selective Game Hours System.

  • Amendment to Game Industry Promotion Act:  Further, the Relevant Ministries unveiled their plan to require service providers to disclose the relevant likelihood of probability-based items and introduce regulations on advertisement of game products harmful to juveniles.  It appears that they are planning to pass the bill to overhaul the Game Industry Promotion Act (the “Amendment Bill”) that the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism proposed at the end of last year through Assemblyman Sang-Heon Lee.  Please refer to this article for the key provisions of the Amendment Bill.

 

[Korean version]

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