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Troops to wait longer for phones

During pilot program, some soldiers became addicted to gaming
Dec 28,2018
The military decided on Thursday to postpone its plan to allow soldiers to use cellphones while in their barracks in the evenings.

A pilot program indicated that mobile video game addiction was developing among soldiers.

The Ministry of National Defense of Korea said that it will postpone its plan to allow soldiers to use cellphones until after June 2019.

The ministry originally planned to introduce the policy before June. The plan will allow soldiers to use personal cellphones in their barracks from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on a regular day and from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on their off days.

“We will be implementing the program in stages in 2019, and we will decide in the earlier half of next year when to fully implement the program for all soldiers,” the ministry said in a statement Thursday.

The ministry had previously announced that it will allow the use of cellphones in the barracks for all soldiers before June 2019.

It has been running a pilot program in four units since April. The program was launched to help soldiers stay connected with their family members and friends back home.

During the pilot program, some soldiers developed an addiction to mobile video games.

“Over the weekends, when the use of cellphones in the barracks was allowed from the morning to evening, some soldiers were seen playing games all day,” a ministry official told the JoongAng Ilbo.

“There were cases when soldiers were addicted to the point it began to have a negative effect on their work and duties.”

The official said that the pilot program will run for at least two to three months next year.

An earlier policy in which soldiers were allowed to share cellphones that could only receive communications proved to help communication between soldiers and their relatives.

Before the pilot program was launched, the military’s biggest concern was possible security breaches. The ministry said there was no serious security leak during the pilot program, however.

The official added that there will be technical solutions to limit the use of cameras and voice-recording mobile applications on the soldiers’ cellphones to prevent any leaks of defense secrets and intelligence.

The ministry also announced that starting in February 2019, all soldiers will be allowed to request individual free time outside of the military barracks twice a month. The ministry has been running a pilot program on this since August.

“They can venture to areas near their barracks for medical purposes, personal errands, or to meet friends or relatives, as long as these activities do not hinder them from their duties,” the ministry said in its statement. “The area they can venture out to will be limited, and the time will be limited to 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.”

BY LEE KEUN-PYUNG, ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]