Mobile Game Regulation in South Korea: A Case Study of the Shutdown Law

  • Yoonmo SangEmail author
  • Sora Park
  • Hogeun Seo
Part of the Mobile Communication in Asia: Local Insights, Global Implications book series (MCALIGI)


This study critically examines the regulatory framework and the socio-cultural implications of South Korea’s Shutdown Law that was enacted in 2011. The Shutdown Law prohibits online game companies from providing services to youth under the age of 16 between midnight and 6 a.m. Controversy surrounding the constitutionality and effectiveness of the law has continued, and the Korean government has considered applying the same regulatory measure to mobile games. This study employs Lessig’s (Code: Version 2.0. Basic Books, New York, 2006) four modalities of regulation to critically evaluate the regulatory framework and the socio-cultural implications of the Shutdown Law. Through the analysis this study presents broader policy implications with regard to mobile game regulation.


Mobile game Online gaming addiction Regulation Shutdown law Youth 


  1. Chappell, D., Eatough, V., Davies, M. N. O., & Griffiths, M. (2006). EverQuest—It’s just a computer game right? An interpretative phenomenological analysis of online gaming addiction. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 4(3), 205–216. doi: 10.1007/s11469-006-9028-6.
  2. Charlton, J. P., & Danforth, I. D. W. (2007). Distinguishing addiction and high engagement in the context of online game playing. Computers in Human Behavior, 23(3), 1531–1548.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cho, K. (2014, September 25). A risk analysis report on the Korean game industry. Game Donga. Accessed 15 Feb 2016.
  4. Choi, S., & Seo, S. (2014). Study on the perception changes of shut down policy. Journal of Korea Game Society, 14(1), 69–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Constitution of the Republic of Korea. Constitution No. 10, Oct. 29, 1987.Google Scholar
  6. Constitutional Court of Korea, April 24, 2014, 2011Hun-Ma659.Google Scholar
  7. Constitutional Court of Korea, April 27, 2000, 98Hun-Ka16.Google Scholar
  8. DIGIECO. (2015). Mobile trend of the first half of 2015. Accessed 13 Oct 2015.
  9. Do, M. (2015, August 25). “Do not play games in college dorms”…Students complain that “this is going too far.” Money Today. Accessed 7 Sept 2015.
  10. Dwyer, T. (2012). Legal and ethical issues in the media. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Game Industry Promotion Act. Act No. 11690, Mar. 23, 2013.Google Scholar
  12. Griffiths, M. D. (2010). The role of context in online gaming excess and addiction: Some case study evidence. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 8(1), 119–125.Google Scholar
  13. Groom, N. (2014, January 6). Online gaming is South Korea’s most popular drug. Vice. Accessed 17 Sept 2015.
  14. Grüsser, S. M., Thalemann, R., & Griffiths, M. D. (2007). Excessive computer game playing: Evidence for addiction and aggression? CyberPsychology & Behavior, 10(2), 290–292. doi: 10.1089/cpb.2006.9956.
  15. Hjorth, L. (2011). Games and gaming: An introduction to new media. Oxford: Berg.Google Scholar
  16. Hjorth, L. (2012). iPersonal: A case study of the politics of the personal. In L. Hjorth, J. Burgess, & I. Richardson (Eds.), Studying mobile media: Cultural technologies, mobile communication, and the iPhone (pp. 190–212). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  17. Hu, E. (2015, April 15). The all-work, no-play culture of South Korean education. NPR. Accessed 17 Sept 2015.
  18. Hussain, Z., & Griffiths, M. D. (2009). Excessive use of massively multi-player online role-playing games: A pilot study. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 7(4), 563–571. doi: 10.1007/s11469-009-9202-8.
  19. Hwang, S. G. (2014). Youth protection and limit of state paternalism: Focusing on study on the decision 2011Hun-Ma659 of the Constitutional Court of Korea. Hanyang Law Review, 31(3), 27–49.Google Scholar
  20. Jin, D. Y. (2010). Korea’s online gaming empire. Boston: MIT Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Jin, D. Y., & Chee, F. (2008). Age of new media empires: A critical interpretation of the Korean online game industry. Games and Culture, 3(1), 38–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Jin, D. Y., Chee, F. M., & Kim, S. (2015). Transformative mobile game culture: Sociocultural analysis of Korean mobile gaming in the era of smartphones. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 18(4), 413–429.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Joo, J., & Sang, Y. (2013). Exploring Koreans’ smartphone usage: An integrated model of technology acceptance model and uses and gratifications theory. Computers in Human Behavior, 29(6), 2512–2518.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Juvenile Protection Act. Act No. 11179, Jan. 17, 2012.Google Scholar
  25. Kim, K. S. (2005). Globalization, statist political economy, and unsuccessful education reform in South Korea, 1993–2003. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 13(12), 1–25.Google Scholar
  26. Kim, R. (2011a, March 8). Skepticism prevails over game curfew. The Korea Times. Accessed 1 Oct 2015.
  27. Kim, T. (2011b, November 8). Criteria on online game curfews seen as vague. The Korea Times. Accessed 1 Oct 2015.
  28. Kim, E. J., Namkoong, K., Ku, T., & Kim, S. J. (2008). The relationship between online game addiction and aggression, self-control and narcissistic personality traits. European Psychiatry, 23(3), 212–218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Korea Creative Content Agency. (2010). Comprehensive scale for assessing game behavior manual. Accessed 28 Sept 2015.
  30. Korea Creative Content Agency. (2012). 2012 white paper on Korean games. Accessed 13 Oct 2015.
  31. Korea Creative Content Agency. (2014). 2014 white paper on Korean games. Accessed 13 Oct 2015.
  32. Kuss, D. J. (2013). Internet gaming addiction: Current perspectives. Psychology Research and Behavior Management, 6, 125–137. doi: 10.2147/PRBM.S39476.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kuss, D. J., & Griffiths, M. D. (2012). Internet gaming addiction: A systematic review of empirical research. International Journal of Mental Health Addiction, 10(2), 278–296.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kwon, M., Lee, J.-Y., Won, W.-Y., Park, J.-W., Min, J.-A., Hahn, C., … Kim, D.-J. (2013). Development and validation of a smartphone addiction scale (SAS). Plos One, 8(2), e56936. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0056936.
  35. Lee, J. (2011, April 29). Shutdown Law, mandatory user authentication. Hankook Ilbo. Accessed 1 Oct 2015.
  36. Lee, C. (2014a, September 1). Korea eases online game rules. The Korea Herald. Accessed 14 Oct 2015.
  37. Lee, J. (2014b, October 5). Rejecting a request for cancellation of purchase order placed by a minor tops Korea Consumer Agency’s consumer complaint related to game. ChosunBiz. Accessed 07 Feb 2016.
  38. Lee, S. (2014c, December 17). Feeling burdened by the unfavorable gaze of gaming -“Game is subject to regulation”-game development companies go abroad one after another. Korea Times. Accessed 28 Sept 2015.
  39. Lessig, L. (1999). The law of the horse: What cyberlaw might teach. Harvard Law Review, 113(2), 501–549.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Lessig, L. (2006). Code: Version 2.0. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  41. Levin, D. B. (2002). Building social norms on the Internet. Yale Journal of Law and Technology, 4(1), 99–138.Google Scholar
  42. McLellan, H. (2011, November 24). South Korea’s “Shutdown Law” takes effects. The Escapist. Accessed 11 Feb 2016.
  43. Nam, J. S. (2011, March 21). WeMade earned 2.2 trillion Korean won with the Legend of Mir 2. Sports Chosun. Accessed 13 Oct 2015.
  44. Nam, I. S. (2013, July 23). A rising addiction among youths: Smartphones. The Wall Street Journal. Accessed 17 Sept 2015.
  45. Nasmedia. (2015). Market analysis of mobile game [PowerPoint slides]. Accessed 13 Oct 2015.
  46. National Youth Policy Institute. (2013). A survey of youth’s Internet game use. Accessed 17 Sept 2015.
  47. Ng, B. D., & Wiemer-Hastings, P. (2005). Addiction to the Internet and online gaming. Cyber Psychology & Behavior, 8(2), 110–113. doi: 10.1089/cpb.2005.8.110.
  48. Nielsen KoreanClick. (2014). News Flash. Accessed 13 Oct 2015.
  49. Olsen, K. (2007, May 21). South Korean gamers get a sneak peek at ‘StarCraft II.’ USA TODAY. Accessed 14 Oct 2015.
  50. Park. S. (2012, October 26). Shutdown Law “no effectiveness, and reverse discrimination.” ZDNet. Accessed 14 Oct 2015.
  51. Park, S. (2013). Always on and always with mobile tablet devices: A qualitative study on how young adults negotiate with continuous connected presence. Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society, 33(5/6), 182–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Rhee, W. (2012). Standard of review over the constitutionality of the statute as applied by the Constitutional Court and the freedom of expression law. Seoul Law Journal, 53(2), 285–317.Google Scholar
  53. Sang, Y., Lee, J., Kim, Y., & Woo, H. (2015). Understanding the intentions behind illegal downloading: A comparative study of American and Korean college students. Telematics and Informatics, 32(2), 333–343.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Song, J. (2014, March 18). Regulations threaten S Korea’s gaming industry. Financial Times. Accessed 17 Sept 2015.
  55. Souppouris, A. (2014, March 20). South Korean schools are remotely disabling students’ smartphones. The Verge. Accessed 28 Sept 2015.
  56. Stuart, K. (2014, January 8). Video games and art: Why does the media get it so wrong? The Guardian. Accessed 28 Sept 2015.
  57. Sung, W. (2014). A study on the effect of the policy of online game shutdown on the game time of youth. Social Science Research Review, 30(2), 233–256.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Strategic, Legal and Management CommunicationHoward UniversityWashington, DCUSA
  2. 2.News & Media Research CentreUniversity of CanberraBruceAustralia
  3. 3.Department of Radio-Television-FilmUniversity of Texas at AustinAustinUSA

Personalised recommendations