Keun Bae's wife, Heejung, was worried. At midnight, her husband got a call that roused him from sleep. Keun Bae had stepped into the hallway and closed the bedroom door behind him, but she still heard him speaking angrily into his cell phone: "Sell. Do as I say. Sell."
Heejung fretted for the next couple of days, and finally broke down. "What was that call all about?" she asked tearfully. "Are you in trouble?"
Keun Bae assured his wife that he wasn't about to lose his shirt on the stock market. Although Keun Bae is an average guy - 32, father of two, Internet café worker - he's also a high-ranking feudal lord in "Lineage," a massively multiplayer online game. And when you're a high-ranking feudal lord, you've got to expect the occasional late-night phone call.
Online gaming is to South Korea what reality TV is to the United States: Huge. Really huge. An estimated 17 million people in the country of 48 million play games regularly. Consoles, so popular in the United States and Japan, have barely made the radar in South Korea. There, online gaming is it.