[Hallyupedia] PC Bang (PC방)

윤지현 / 차민경 인턴 / 2021-06-12 07:00:10
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by Yun Ji Hyun / Cha Min Kyung

PC bang
[ENG] PC room, Korean gaming center

 

▲ This photo taken on Jan.19,2021 shows a typical Korean PC bang with multiple PC screens and chairs lined up in rows. (Yonhap) 


The term 'PC bang,' is a combination of the English acronym 'PC (Personal Computer)' and the Korean word for 'room' '방·[bang],' which basically refers to a place where one can use a computer after paying a fee. In PC bangs, multiple PCs are connected to internet lines so that people can use the computers to play games or search information online. PC bangs are considered to be a unique cultural space that can only be found in Korea.

The origin of PC bangs


▲ This photo taken May 1, 1999 shows people using computers at an original PC bang or "Internet cafe." (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)


PC bangs first appeared within the Korean society in the early 1990s. It started off as an "internet cafe" or "electronic cafe" where people were given space to write documents or check e-mails on computers while drinking beverages.

The name 'PC bang' is known to be created around 1996. In late 1997, when Korea faced the IMF financial crisis, the number of PC rooms increased rapidly. People who have been forced to retire due to the economic downturn began pouring their retirement funds into PC rooms, which were regarded as high income 'start-up' business ideas.
 

▲ This photo provided by Blizzard Entertainment shows the remastered version of the popular game "StarCraft." (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

The online game "StarCraft" also became a vital contributing factor for the development of PC bangs. The game enabled people to compete with users worldwide or play with multiple users at once. This led people to seek PC bangs more often as the game rooms had stable but fast Internet connection and was a suitable space to play games with friends. In addition to StarCraft, PC bang has the advantage of owning a variety of the latest online games. During this period, PC bangs had officially become a place for teenagers and college students to gather around with their peers to enjoy games.

However, since the mid-2000s, the number of PCs owned by households and internet supply rates increased, causing the value of PC bangs to waver. In addition, the fact that the game industry shifted to target mobile users due to the expansion of smartphones, dwindled the size of the PC bang market. 

 

As the demand for game rooms decreased, there was an increase in competition between PC bang owners who started lowering the cost of entrance fees to attract customers. In the end, only larger PC bangs with high-end game facilities survived, leaving smaller scaled PC bangs to run out of business. Nowadays, PC bangs provide large monitors and comfortable chairs and are decorated to have a bright pleasant atmosphere, straining away from the previous dark and unsanitary image of PC bangs.

Social issues that stem from PC bangs
Since the key demographic of PC bangs were teenagers, many of the issues that are raised involves young adults. One of the problems were secondhand smoking. Originally, PC bangs rarely provided separate smoking areas and due to the poor ventilation system, there was a high risk of indirect smoking.

As the issue became controversial, the National Health Promotion Act and the so-called "No Smoking Act" took effect in 2013. Since then, PC bangs have installed smoking rooms in a separate space so that people cannot access computers while smoking.
 

▲ This photo taken on Sept.14, 2020 shows people playing computer games at a PC bang in Seoul. (Yonhap)

As most PC rooms are open 24 hours a day, teenagers who try to enter at night have also created a problem. Since people are able to stay at PC bangs for a long time at a relatively low price, there have been cases in which runaway teenagers spend the night in PC bangs.

However, under the "Game Industry Promotion Act," teenagers under 19 are not allowed to enter PC bangs from 10 p.m. to 9 a.m. the following day.

(END)

(C) Yonhap News Agency. All Rights Reserved

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