Korea's Internet "addiction" boot-camps

The New York Times has an article on South Korea's government-funded boot camps for "Internet addicts" — places where kids are sent to be barked at by drill instructors until they forswear excessive Internet use.

I believe that it's possible to do anything to excess, but I balk at the use of the term "addict" to describe someone whose problem doesn't involve an actual substance with the concomitant changes to brain-chemistry. An addiction is something that afflicts you because you take the drug, regardless of the other circumstances.

For example, if you are a happy, well-adjusted person who smokes cigarettes on a daily basis, you'll still have trouble giving them up, no matter that you're otherwise a paragon of good habits. But "addictions" to activities like using the Internet presumably have their origins in problems with your life or outlook — root causes that mere separation can't address.

As a drill instructor barked orders, Chang-hoon and 17 other boys marched through a cold autumn rain to the obstacle course. Wet and shivering, Chang-hoon began climbing the first obstacle, a telephone pole with small metal rungs. At the top, he slowly stood up, legs quaking, arms outstretched for balance. Below, the other boys held a safety rope attached to a harness on his chest.

"Do you have anything to tell your mother?" the drill instructor shouted from below.

"No!" he yelled back.

"Tell your mother you love her!" ordered the instructor.

"I love you, my parents!" he replied.

"Then jump!" ordered the instructor. Chang-hoon squatted and leapt to a nearby trapeze, catching it in his hands.

"Fighting!" yelled the other boys, using the English word that in South Korea means the rough equivalent of "Don't give up!"

After Chang-hoon descended, he said, "That was better than games!"

Was it thrilling enough to wean him from the Internet?

"I'm not thinking about games now, so maybe this will help," he replied. "From now on, maybe I'll just spend five hours a day online."


(via /.)