A lot of things happened in South Korea last year. Among the various social issues that cropped up, there was a public uproar against certain laws about children and youths. These laws were the Game Shutdown Law(GSL) and the Juvenile Sex Protection Law(JSPL). Why did people get so worked up by these laws?
GSL forbids the adolescents under 16 years of age to play Internet games late at night, especially between midnight and 6 in the morning. GSL was established to prevent Internet game addiction. JSPL was proposed for the purpose of preventing the spread of child and youth sex because the cases of sexual assault against juveniles have risen. These two laws’ intent is very sound, but they have a common problem, which is the main reason for the controversy surrounding them: they infringe on people’s personal liberties. In Case of GSL, it reduces the time the teenagers spend on Internet games and thus prevents their Internet game addiction. Time is personal, and how teenagers want to spend their time is a matter that should be decided by them or their parents. The law infringes on their individual right as it prevents them from spending their personal time in the way that they want to. In a sense, through GSL, the government unnecessarily intervenes in a family’s own problem. JSPL, on the other hand, protects children’s and youths’ sexuality but has unclear terms and definitions. In particular, the fifth clause of Article 2, defining “child and youth pornography,” has unclear criteria and is thus currently being debated. That is, the definition of “child and youth pornography” differs depending on the circumstances. As such, the creator of a work that is adjudged as pornographic would be punished because of his unintentional production of a “pornographic work.” So as not to violate the law, the makers of creative works will be exceedingly careful with their self-expression and will thus not be able to express what they want to express. That is, their freedom of expression will be limited.
GSL and JSPL have the same goal to protect minors, but it seems that they apply the wrong method because they cost personal rights or freedom. The need to protect the children and youths in the society from sexual harassment has become an important social problem, but the way that the government is trying to address it does not seem appropriate. Can it ever be right to infringe on people’s freedom even to protect children and youths?
GSL and JSPL are newly enforced and reformed laws. GSL has actually been enforced beginning last year. As for JSPL, it has not yet been enforced due to the fierce opposition to it. Both laws have many problems and will undergo a trial-and-error process because they are still at the initial stages. I believe that although they started off on the wrong foot, if many people will look into them and will revise them, they will eventually become suitable laws for child and youth protection.