For six months after her admission to a top-notch Seoul university in 2000, Kim said, she secluded herself in her room more than 20 hours a day, prowling a virtual world where she morphed into a tank gunner catapulting fireballs at enemy castles inhabited by trolls and elves. She slept only a few hours a day and ate at the keyboard. She was losing weight, relations with her parents got testy, and she was failing nearly all of her classes.
"I occasionally conked out and slept an entire day to refill my energy," Kim said. "What amazed me even then was that there were so many people like me out there. We formed a guild and took turns to keep battles against our foes going around the clock."
Kim knew it was ruining her life and she tried to kick the habit but couldn't. Finally, she thought the only way to salvage herself from the depth of gaming addiction was to leave South Korea, the world's most wired country, where widespread high-speed Internet connectivity makes online games a national pastime. Six out of 10 South Koreans ages 9 to 39 consider themselves frequent online game players, according to a government-funded survey published this year