Rising teen online gambling addiction prompts government response in South Korea

South Korea is witnessing a rise in teenage online gambling, according to figures, prompting government and police efforts to curb the increase.

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While rehabilitation programs are available, a notable gap in medical support has emerged, with the National Center for Youth Internet Addiction Treatment being the sole facility offering rehab programs for online gambling addictions in Korea. 

Admission to the state-run rehab camp entails surrendering smartphones and internet-enabled devices for 11 nights and 12 days. Participants are exposed to the perils of gambling while engaging in activities such as playing musical instruments, basketball or ping pong.

Despite the seemingly short duration, the program presents a considerable challenge for teenagers, with some opting to quit before completion. Shim Yong-chool, director of the National Center for Youth Internet Addiction Treatment, emphasised the daily struggle faced by participants in resisting urges during their stay.

Data from the Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service revealed a 75% increase in teenagers seeking medical treatment for gambling addiction from 2018 to 2022. Between January and August of this year alone, over 110 teen gambling addicts sought medical assistance. During a special crackdown on online gambling by the National Police Agency, 39 out of 353 arrests were juveniles.

The Gender Equality and Family Ministry's 2023 habit diagnosis survey highlighted that 28,838 teens were at risk of online gambling. Experts point to the digital environment's familiarity as a contributing factor, with early exposure to digital devices and fast internet access amplifying the issue.


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