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Report: South Korean couple starved child while raising 'virtual baby'

  • Couple reportedly fed baby daughter just once a day while at Internet cafe
  • Police said couple had become obsessed with role-playing game, state media reported
  • Caring for their online baby erased any sense of guilt, said Professor Kwak Dae-kyung

(CNN) -- A South Korean couple arrested for allowing their baby to starve to death had been raising an online child, state media reported citing police sources.

The couple, residents of a Seoul suburb, allegedly neglected their prematurely born three-month-old daughter, feeding her just once a day in between 12-hour stretches at a neighborhood internet cafe, the official Yonhap news agency reported.

Police said the couple had become obsessed with raising a virtual girl character called "Anima" in "Prius Online", a popular role-playing game in South Korea.

"The couple seemed to have lost their will to live a normal life, because they didn't have jobs and gave birth to a premature baby," said Chung Jin-won, a police officer.

"They indulged themselves in the online game of raising a virtual character so as to escape from reality, which led to the death of their real baby."

Professor Kwak Dae-kyung of Seoul's Dongguk University told the Yonhap news agency that the couple appeared to have lost track of reality.

"Online game addiction can blur the line between reality and the virtual world. It seems that taking care of their on-line game character erased any sense of guilt they may have had for neglecting their daughter."

Dae-kyung urged the government to prepare measures so that families and neighbors can contact local authorities or hospitals if anyone shows symptoms of online addiction.

"This kind of situation is not a problem that an individual can solve," he said.