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 SKorea targets Internet addicts; 2 million hooked

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Date posted: 25/04/2010

Day and night, Lee Mi-hwa's son stays on his computer, slaying dragons in his online fantasy world while his dinner and homework sit untouched.

Lee says the 15-year-old fights her attempts to get him to log off, screaming and physically lashing out at her entreaties. She pulls up her sleeves to reveal bruises she says come from his blows.

Her son is among some 2 million people classified by the government as "Internet addicts" in South Korea, a nation of 49 million considered one of the most technologically wired in the world.

Some are becoming increasingly violent. Last month, a couple let their 3-month-old starve while they raised a virtual child in an online game, spending most of their days at an Internet cafe instead of caring for their newborn, police said.

The baby looked like "a mummy" because she had not been fed for so long, according to a Suwon police officer who investigated the case. He asked that his name not be used because the investigation was still under way.

In February, a 22-year-old bludgeoned his mother to death for "nagging" him about playing Internet games, police said. He then played games online for hours, paying with his mother's credit card, a police statement said.

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