Seoul, South Korea
Healthy Seoul Free from Internet Addiction of Children and Adolescents
South Koreans can’t get enough of the Internet, it seems. According to a study in 2005, 12.6 percent of the South Korean population aged between 9 and 39 is reported to have symptoms of internet addiction*. Although the South Korean government began to respond to this problem, the effort was not enough to prevent the phenomenon from spreading. Given the situation, Seoul established the “I Will Center” in 2007, an internet addiction prevention and intervention center for children and youths. The establishment of the center was the first effort from the South Korean government to tackle the issue of Internet addiction.
*Source: National Information Society Agency, 2006, National Survey of Internet Addiction Summary Report.
Goals of the Initiative
The goal of this initiative is to create Seoul as a healthy and safe area for children and adolescents in terms of Internet use. Statistically speaking, the aim is to lower the Internet addiction rate among youths in Seoul to 5 percent or less by 2012.
The specific direction of the initiative described in “Future of Seoul Project (2008~2010)”, which provided the foundation for this Internet addiction response, were:
Expansion of the “I Will Center” to other regions of Seoul
Collaboration with associated ministries and organizations for the expansion and effective delivery of the program
Increased operation of Internet addiction prevention
Parties and Partners of the Initiative and Resources Used for Implementation
Leading partner I: Ministry of Public Administration and Security
This ministry has taken a leading role in Internet addiction response in South Korea since 2002. The Internet addiction policy of Seoul is in line with the long-term plan coordinated by the ministry, while the I Will centers are operating the children and youth specialized program fit to the needs of Seoul citizen.
Leading partner II: Ministry of Gender Equality and Family
This ministry plays a key role in advancing the Internet addiction response for youths. I Will centers actively cooperate with the Internet addiction school screening project of this ministry and expand its capacity of counseling services.
Other Collaborating partners
School districts, local schools, youth facilities, school counselors, youth workers, media, professionals and scholars, and partner hospitals.
The resources used for implementing the initiative include:
Budget support from the Seoul Metropolitan Government (2.4 million USD in 2012)
Statistics from the national Internet addiction survey (Ministry of Public Administration & Security) and Internet addiction school screening (Ministry of Gender Equality and Family) used for planning and evaluation
Administration of school districts connecting I Will centers to local schools for effective delivery of the services
Programs developed by the South Korea Information Society Agency and the South Korea Youth Counseling and Welfare Institute
Existing network & facilities of youth centers where three I Will centers are located
Innovation for the Initiative
Evolutional aspect: I Will centers were created on the basis of existing programs for Internet addiction counseling and prevention, but have gradually developed specialized programs for children and youths.
Revolutionary aspect: This initiative is significant and meaningful because it is the first time a regional government has launched an Internet addiction prevention program in South Korea and perhaps the world. Instead of relying on the central government’s support, the regional government has established and executed policies itself. This initiative has become a role model for other regional governments and neighboring countries that are eagerly searching for a good model to help their youths who are addicted to the Internet.
The I Will Center is one of the leading examples of the public response to youth Internet addiction problems, applying various new methods and approaches. See section F for details on the center programs.
The advantages of regional government’s independent operation of internet addiction response are:
•tailored programs and flexible budgets to fit the needs of citizens
•prompt responses to the rapid changes in the media environment
•providing a role model of a regional government’s central role to cooperate with other institutions including central government for the more efficient service
In their early stages, I Will centers received assistance from the Internet addiction programs of the South Korea Information Society Agency and the South Korea Youth Counseling and Welfare Institute. I Will centers can access public research reports of these agencies and receive help from their advisors.
Currently, the relationship of I Will centers with the two agencies has become reciprocal. The quantitative and qualitative growth of I Will centers continues to surprise other agencies.
Will centers hold the annual “Program and Case Conference” to share the program models to scholars and practitioners who work on Internet addiction.
In fall of 2012, I Will centers are invited to attend international workshops and conferences, which will be held in five Asian cities. This will be a good chance to distribute the I Will program model.