Last week, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the DSM) announced that its 2013 edition will include Internet-use disorder as a condition recommended for further study. It's not a disorder yet, but it has now officially been used successfully as a defense against two parents accused of negligence and manslaughter for the death of their child.
You probably remember seeing it on the news: Kim Yoo-chul and Choi Mi-sun were so obsessed with the virtual world Prius that they allowed their infant daughter to starve to death.
While the U.S. media hasn't reported on the story since it broke in 2010, the couple was not found to be culpable for manslaughter because the court recognized their internet addiction as a mental disorder that absolved them of blame.
Valerie Veatch, the co-director of last year's Sundance and HBO hit "Me at the Zoo," headed to South Korea to follow up on this story for her new film, "Love Child."
The couple has welcomed their third child, and Kim is now a taxi driver. Neither one of them game. Veatch and her team talked to the police detective on the case, the lawyer, game developers and professors, but she also spent time with the couple and their family. "Even the grandmother was playing this game, on level 74," Veatch told Indiewire.
Reflecting on what she has learned while making the film, Veatch added, "Korea has had high speed Internet for much longer than we have in the States. They have a very sophisticated gaming industry and culture. This story was completely different as it was played in the international news media. It was fear that drives these news stories."
"We talked to game developers to talk about how they're dealing with this immersion. Often times, the gaming industry is funding non-profits to do this kind of research. The gaming industry has such a complex economy and is based on this immersion. We're not trying to induce fear, but we're trying to open up a conversation. The Korean government itself isn't hoping to be a killjoy. They, amongst others, realize that we do need to think about these issues."
Veatch's producer Dong Hyun Kim offered his own explanation for Korea's rampant gaming culture: "Korean culture is all about collective organization in groups, and online gaming is the best example of such group activities. Most people prefer playing online games with their existing real-world friends in PC bangs. The PC bang culture also fits well with Korean public bath culture where groups of family and friends do the same activities rather than being more independent." To quote the film's current synopsis, the filmmakers are investigating "how today's Korean gaming culture seeks harmony, in a world where virtual is the new reality."
Veatch and Kim are producing with David Foox. Cinematography is by Daniel B Levin. The film is in post-production now, and Veatch is hoping it will debut in the spring of 2013.
Below is the film's trailer, making its world premiere on Indiewire today.