Gamer arrested after son starves to death

2014-04-15 09:12

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Seoul - South Korean police said on Tuesday they had arrested a man for apparently allowing his infant son to starve to death while spending days playing online games at Internet cafes.

The case will likely fuel an ongoing debate about the problem of compulsive online gaming in South Korea, where parliament is considering a bill to classify the activity as potentially addictive as drugs, gambling and alcohol.

The 22-year-old man surnamed Chung was arrested on Monday after the badly decomposed body of the two-year-old was found in a trash bag near the south-eastern city of Daegu, city police said.

The case received extensive media coverage, with TV stations airing CCTV footage of Chung in the elevator of his apartment block, nonchalantly checking his hair in the mirror with one hand while holding a trash bag allegedly containing his dead son in the other.

The details echoed a notorious 2009 case that shocked the country when a couple let their three-month-old baby starve to death while they played a video game on bringing up a virtual child.

In late February, Chung's wife started working in a factory far from the city - leaving her unemployed husband, who police said had a criminal record, to care for their child.

But he spent most of his time in Internet cafes, visiting home every two or three days to feed the boy.

Police said Chung found the baby dead on 7 March and left the body at home for more than a month, before finally dumping it in a garden a mile away.

Police said he initially reported the baby missing, but later confessed to disposing of the body.

A Daegu police detective working on the case told AFP that Chung would likely be charged with homicide and abandoning a body.

Online game addiction is seen as a serious problem in South Korea - one of the world's most wired nations with a thriving gaming industry.

A woman was arrested in 2012 after giving birth in the toilet of an Internet cafe where she had been playing for days, and abandoning the newborn.

A national survey carried out by the Science Ministry last year concluded that 7% of the country's 50 million population were at "high risk" of becoming addicted to Internet use, with the figure rising to 11.7% among teenagers.

The survey defined addiction using a set of symptoms that included feeling extremely anxious without Internet access and using the Internet to the point of having trouble carrying out normal daily routines.

Family groups say the problem has been exacerbated by smartphones which enjoy a 75% penetration rate in South Korea.

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