Chosun Ilbo Probes Korean Sex Addicts

September 5th, 2008 · Society · 9 comments

The Chosun published two articles on the topic on Tuesday. The first looked at the phenomenon of addiction to internet porn — including a man who could not sleep without taking in the day’s new videos and was fired for twice (!) exposing himself to co-workers — and the second examined the plight of wives who deal with their sex addictions through “secret masturbation”. Needless to say prospects are bleak for either article making into the English edition of the august paper. Here’s my translation of the first.

    At the early morning hours, 52-year old Kim Cheol-min (not his real name), a former office worker, gets out of bed and turns on his computer in the dark. Every night he turns on the computer and heads to a pornographic online cafe. He cannot sleep until he has viewed all of the updated videos. Two years of living this way has greatly changed Mr. Kim. He has become a flasher. He exposed his genitals to a female co-worker in the office break room. After the second such incident he was fired. His wife was angered when he posted videos of their sexual relations.


    Addiction to internet pornography was once thought of as something that happened only to teenagers. Because of this there are various programs to block pornographic websites, and some families keep their computer in the living room. If there is a problem with a particular site then age verification will be requested, and the “must be 19” logo will be displayed, warning of the potential harmful effect on teens. But is pornography a problem only for teens? Experts say “NO”. Research says that pornography can bring about similar harm in adults as in teens.

    The greatest harm from pornography addiction is the severing of normal marital relationships. Professor Kim Seong, who offer counseling at the Internet Addiction Prevention Center (터넷중독 예방상담센터), said, “pornography addiction is a continuous cycle. As you keep searching for more and more extreme material your marriage inevitably suffers more and more.” Addicts refuse to have sex with their spouses or make unusual sexual demands.

    Pornography addiction can easily break down a person’s body. Like alcohol addiction it creates physical health issues, and if it continues for a long time a serious condition can be reached.

    The pornography makes it difficult for you to be with your family, and as you spend more time in dark rooms at night you suffer from lack of sleep and worsened eyesight. As the addiction increases in seriousness abnormal sex acts such as flashing and voyeurism follow, and addicts need psychological treatment or they may find themselves in court. Life becomes difficult in the church and office, too. With the images of pornography from late-night sessions still in their eyes they find it hard to concentrate at work, and seek out adults-only PC rooms near the office. In serious cases, social problems may develop including sexual violence done in imitation of sex acts seen in pornography.

    Lee Gi-jun, chief of the Korea Computer Life Institute (한국컴퓨터생활연구소), said, “quite a few adults who sexually assault children are pornography addicts.” Bae Jeong-won, chief of the Yonsei Sexual Health Center (연세성건강센터), said, “one problem is that when a teen becomes addicted to pornography, even if the parents take them to the hospital or a counseling center the children usually hide the pornography, making it difficult to discover, and refuse to go for treatment of counseling.” He added, “families and society need to know that these days, in a society where access to pornography is easy, becoming addicted to it one time will lead to a terrible disease which cuts off all social relationships.”

    So far there is little awareness of pornography addiction, but it is an “addiction to an action” like addiction to gambling. Addictions to actions typically create obstacles to normal lives through excessive repeating of one action.

    Shin Yeong-cheol, professor of psychology at Kangbuk Samsung Hospital (강북삼성병원), said, “even if people who are addicted to actions want to quit through their own self-control they are unable to, or if they can they suffer withdrawal symptoms or as time goes by they seek a stronger stimulus.”

    There are many reasons people become addicted to pornography including family situations in childhood and the relationship with one’s spouse, so it is not easy to assign one to each addict. But those who can diagnose pornography addiction are the experts, not those with special psychological problems.

    Lee Yeon-su, chief of the Korea Institute for Sexology (한국성과학연구소), said, “if you look at the people who come for counselling because they think they may be addicted to pornography, at first most of them seem to have no problems. But if they receive close counselling, many of them are frightened of adult relationships or of using their underdeveloped social skills.”

    Lee Yeong-shik, professor of psychology at Chungang University Hospital (중앙대병원), said, “it used to be that pornography addiction was only a man’s problem, but now it’s beginning to be a problem among women as well. Wives are coming to our hospital with guilty consciences or self-loathing after becoming depressed, beginning to visit pornographic web sites and becoming addicted.”

    Like most addictions this is a difficult one to treat. Because of the illicit nature of pornography it is not easy to tell another that you are addicted to it and difficult to notice in its early stages, and with no certain cure few go for treatment.

    The current most-used method is telephone counselling. Lee Ok-yi, chief of Man Hotline (한국남성의전화), said, “it is difficult in the beginning to start treatment for pornography addiction, but once a person starts phone counselling and realizes they are addicted you start to see progress.”

    There is also aversion treatment. Like treatment for addictions to nicotine or alcohol, the person is exposed to the smell of garbage when they see pornography, creating bad feelings and getting their brains to associate pornography with unpleasant memories.

    Then there are the methods of using exercise or attention from other people to shed pornography addiction. For people who don’t have sufficient adult relationships, they learn to form warm relationships with others beginning with their spouses.

    Though it is rare, there is treatment through medicine. Depression medication that puts dopamine into the body feels pleasurable and plays an important role, and for those who lack dopamine can help them shed their addictions.

    Accordingly there are pills for adding dopamine, and for those with probematically overcharged sex drives there are hormones to reduce testosterone.

    Professor Kim Seong of Korean Bible University (한국성서대) said, “it is important for pornography addicts to receive treatment together with their spouses. If they come as a couple for two or three months their addiction will go down 70 to 80 percent.”

For some information on the Yonsei Sexual Health Center read this small article in the Yonsei Annals. Last month a blogger named Young-hee examined what Korean elementary schools teach kids about the dangers of the internet.


  • I didn’t read it yet…but “wives who deal with their sex addictions through “secret masturbation”.” Its a shame its gotta be a secret

    nicknows · September 5th, 2008 at 11:23 PM

  • heh heh heh. PROBES sex addicts. heh heh heh. nice headline.

    roboseyo · September 6th, 2008 at 12:47 AM

  • First thing that came to my mind, swear on my mother’s grave.

    Korea Beat · September 6th, 2008 at 5:01 AM

  • Like most Korean journalistic or academic articles, this is so vague as to be useless, and only adds to the guilt and fear around the subject, while being full of problematic assumptions.

    1) The definition of “sex addict” seems to be totally different from the definition in the US, where the most famous and recent case is that of David Duchovny, or perhaps Bill Clinton. That involves the compulsion to continuously engage in sexual activities. While here, it seems to be anything from “porn addiction” to women’s “secret masturbation.”

    2) What is the definition of being an “addict” versus someone who just watches some Internet porn? Especially in a country in which such things are technically illegal, this is a pretty loaded subject. But a decent article would have clearly defined what an “addict” was versus a casual user, as in the case of anything from consuming alchohol to drugs to sexual acts. Without doing so, one must assume that everyone who watches anything naughty on the Internet and has felt guilty about doing so (umm, like nearly everyone?) is an addict? Which would make the definition meaningless. Are we all “addicts,” then?

    3) So, essentially, women who masturbate are deviants? Unless they masturbate publicly, that is. “Secret masturbation?” What is this, 1950? And wouldn’t the opposite kind of “public masturbation” get people arrested for exposure anyway? Cheekiness aside, this pathologizes basically any woman who masturbates, which Dr. Ruth says is a normal and healthy thing. And I still believe Dr. Ruth. Screw the professor from the Korean Bible University. Again, is this 1950?

    4) So, because a lot of sex offenders are found to use pornography, it’s a cause? Did anyone here take a college stats class? Or a basic course in elementary logic? Or just have common sense. Correlation doesn’t equal cause, and pornography’s one of the most oft-used examples where this is at least DEBATED. Child molesters are generally found with child porn after the police raid their houses and whatnot. But is this the cause? Make child porn illegal (oops, it already is!) and the molesters go away? Say you could wave a magic wand and make all child porn disappear. Would the child molesters disappear? Or is the predilection for desiring sex with children not the root cause of the urge to both consume such porn and molest children? Duh?! Even though the rate of expansion of the universe and the rate of expansion of my waistline exist in a near perfect correlation, they have no causal relationship. Perhaps a common factor of TIME creates this tendency in humans and this certainty in the expansion of the universe’s size, but one still does not cause the other, necessarily. Duh!

    This article reads like some “Reefer Madness” scare article from the 30’s and was written on a level I would have given a high school student a C for.

    “Define your terms, isolate and compensate your biases, and clearly present the issues without such obvious sexist double-standards, please. And if the logic of one’s interviewees is obviously flawed, find an expert who can say something intelligent about the issue, or you should push harder to frame them in clearer terms.


    The Metropolitician · September 6th, 2008 at 8:06 AM

  • Here’s a much better example of how to do it.

    Korea Beat · September 6th, 2008 at 10:11 AM

  • Hey Metropolitician, thanks for saving me the time of having to write all that! I totally agree with you!

    Ian · September 6th, 2008 at 11:16 AM

  • Hey Metro, I also agree with you 100 percent, and second Ian above. But man, where do you get the time? You’ve written several ‘essays’ like this in response to different articles…

    Steelhorse · September 6th, 2008 at 12:09 PM

  • You guys are on to a good formula like this. Keep it ups and try to stick to straight forward translation and limit the editorialisation. But be wary of focusing too much on erotica (some is good, more is better) for fear of generating a slanted view of Korea. Selection of material is key, so are you working from a list to ensure you can cover as broad a range of subjects as possible. a little of this , a little of that is good.
    And Michael, I started skipping your sophmoric tracts a long time ago. Five years ago you had an opinion, now you’re just a geek with too much time.
    People are now starting to laugh at you boy.

    David73 · September 8th, 2008 at 9:25 AM

  • Rest assured that I do think about not presenting a slanted view of Korea. At the same time, I want to offer a view of the Korean media that isn’t open to people who don’t know the language, so I have to trust that most people are smart enough to know that this blog should be read in the context of other media sources. I think there’s been a tendency to have weeks with a lot of posts on one subject — sports, or crime, or foreigners, or what have you. My bookmarks folders are always bursting with articles waiting to be translated.

    Korea Beat · September 8th, 2008 at 10:29 AM

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