By Kim Rahn
Korea is believed to be the first country in the world to conduct a program to help cure mobile phone addiction among the young.
A civic group called School Beautiful Movement, together with the Korea Agency for Digital Opportunity and Promotion (KADO) and SK Telecom, has launched a campaign to teach the youth proper cell phone use. ``We hope that the program will help prevent mobile phone abuse through research and education, and that students will willingly learn to properly manage their cell phones,'' a group member said.
Twelve elementary, middle and high schools were selected for the pilot program Tuesday. ``For the next two months, students of these schools will speak about their phone use, discuss the symptoms they experience when they are without a mobile phone, and consider proper use of the phones as consumers,'' the member said.
The schools will have cell phone lockers, where students voluntarily put their phones preventing their use during class time.
A 16-year-old middle schoolgirl in Seoul, Park Eun-young, had her cell phone seized by her teacher, when she was caught sending a text message during class.
The teacher said he would return it to her one week later as punishment. But Park, without her handset, felt nervous, and did not know what to do with her empty hands.
A day later, she went to the teacher and asked him to return it, saying she would promise not to use the mobile phone during class. He refused, and Park kept asking him every recess between classes, begging and crying. The next day, the teacher gave in to her and returned the cell phone.
Feeling nervous without a mobile phone and having it at all times, is typical of many young people in Korea, who could be said to be suffering from so-called mobile phone addiction.
Korea has one of the world's most advanced mobile phone systems and highest quality services. However, the wide use of the handsets has resulted in addiction, especially among teenagers, with cell phones dominating their daily lives.
According to a survey by KADO on students aged between 14 and 19 in 2005, 90 percent had mobile phones; 38.2 percent sent more than 1,000 text messages per month; and 43.7 percent of teenagers had conversations with their friends through text messages during lectures.
A survey by the Korean Association for Information Society in 2001 showed 74.9 percent of young people felt nervous without their handsets.
Such enthusiasm for the mobile phones and its side effects have led to an education program designed to prevent cell phone ``abuse.''