BUSAN, June 16 (Yonhap) -- The number of adolescents treated for gambling addiction spiked last year as they spent more time at home due to the coronavirus pandemic, data showed Thursday.
Rep. Kim Do-eup of the ruling People Power Party released the statistics from the state-run Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service that showed 7,063 adolescents received treatment for gambling addiction between 2017 and 2021.
The number steadily increased from 837 in 2017 to 1,032 in 2018, 1,328 in 2019 and 1,597 in 2020. It surged in 2021 to 2,269, up 42 percent on-year.
"With the proliferation of the contact-free culture due to the prolonged COVID-19, teenagers highly dependent on the internet and smartphones are falling into gambling, believing it to be a form of gaming," Kim said.
However, the number of adolescents who got counseling for gambling problems decreased over the past two years.
According to data from the state-run Korea Center on Gambling Problems released by the lawmaker, the number increased from 503 in 2017 to 1,459 in 2019 but declined to 1,286 in 2020 and 1,242 in 2021.
The center attributed the decrease to the frequent school closures caused by the pandemic. Teenagers usually receive counseling after their problems are detected at school, rather than receiving them voluntarily, it said.
"Gambling often leads to crimes, such as theft, fraud and violence," the lawmaker said. "It is urgent to come up with countermeasures against gambling addiction among the youth."
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