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Parents Let Infant Starve to Death While Feeding Virtual Baby Online

A still from the 3D, online game the couple was addicted to, courtesy of CNN.

You’re not gonna believe this.

A couple in South Korea were convicted Friday of letting their newborn daughter starve to death while they “addictively played an online game raising a virtual child.”

I know.  I know, I know.  But it gets worse.

The couple were sentenced to two years in prison – just two years! – but the mother’s term was suspended because – drum roll, please – she’s pregnant.  And, according to the AP, “The mother will avoid jail time if she stays out of trouble for three years.”  Ummmmm…… please tell me you’re not going to let this woman raise another child.  You’re taking her baby away the second it’s born, right?

According to CNN, “This is the first legal case regarding Internet addiction in Korea.” Kim Dong-young, a lawyer with the Korean Legal Aid Corp who defended the parents said, “I am pleased that the female defendant’s Internet addiction was taken into consideration, and she was bailed.”  I do understand that this woman was under the influence of something she could not control, and I’m not sure it’s legal to strip her of custody of her next child, but I do hope at the very least she is forced to undergo some serious treatment and is perhaps visited by a social worker for the child’s first year.

Prosecutors said, “the couple played at Internet cafes on average 10 hours every day and bottle-fed their baby only once a day,” and that the baby was “often fed rotten formula and was beaten when she cried out of hunger.”  Not only did the couple leave their baby at home alone to go play video games, they “hid at a relative’s home after an autopsy found the baby died of malnutrition.”  These are not teenage parents, either; the father is 41 and the mother is 25.

The South Korean government says that there are 2 million “Internet addicts” among its population.  CNN reports that “Suwon, the satellite town south of Seoul where the tragedy occurred, was named “Intelligent City of the Year” this month by a New York-based think-tank Intelligent Community Forum. The honor was awarded because of the town’s investment in broadband infrastructure and its push to increase connection speeds to 1 gigabyte per second, according to reports.”  In my post Friday about One Laptop Per Child, I talked about how it seems more imperative to me to solve world hunger and poverty than it does to continue to drive forward with technological advancements.  And this weekend, while hanging out with my cousin who holds an engineering degree from Columbia University, we debated about whether or not it made sense for humanity to continue to invest in technology when we haven’t even figured out how to be stewards of the Earth.  We decided that technology, like money, has the potential to be used for good or evil. 

People are starving in North Korea because they have no food, and people are starving in South Korea because their Internet-addict parents forget to feed them.  When is the world going to wake up and take this issue seriously?  (And yes, I understand the irony of writing this on a blog.  I consider my Internet use all the time, precisely because I take technology seriously.  Like any tool, its power should be respected by its users.)

On my OLPC post, a commenter suggested that “all that talk about the evils of technology is really a worry of rich white people.”  Well, I’m not rich, and these Korean parents are not white, but yes, this case is definitely worrisome.  No doubt this ruling will catalyze some type of social movement encouraging people to unplug and connect with the world around them.  Speaking of, its nearly dinner time.  Time to go have a family meal and play outside with my daughter.

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