By Howard Hwang, 14, Marshall HS
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Photo by S. K. Lee. Reprinted by permission from the Korea Times.

The computer game room craze—where teens have been flocking to play the hottest games on the fastest computers—has led to controversy. The shooting of two Korean youth—one died, the other was critically injured— on April 20 outside a PC room in Koreatown has parents freaked out. But the kids who love the game just shrug it off.

These PC rooms, or PC Bahng as they are called in Korean, are multiple rooms which contain 70 or more computers. There’s one on practically every corner in Koreatown. The computers are hooked up with superfast connections, allowing fast and addictive play of such games as Counter-strike, a top game in all PC rooms; StarCraft; Diablo II; WarCraft II and much more. Some are shooting games, others involve strategy. The rooms cost $2 to $8 an hour, which is relatively cheap for the use of this high technology. Daniel Jeon, 15 of Van Nuys High said, "PC rooms rock because you get to hang out and play whatever games you like."

More than 10 students refused to be interviewed for this article, perhaps because they don’t want their parents to know they go to PC rooms. One student said he was afraid he’d get beat up by other players if he gave an interview.

Many students said they had ditched to spend the day at a PC room. They’d leave home at 7 a.m., go to the PC room at 8 a.m. and play until 10 p.m., telling their parents they had been at a friend’s house after school. Anyone 18 or under must leave by 10 p.m., the time of the California curfew for minors. Many students wouldn’t admit staying past the curfew, but one student said that going to a PC room was like smoking, you can’t stop.

PC rooms breed fights

Tensions can run high at PC rooms. The games encourage rivalries as players vie to be the best. In some games, players form groups called clans which compete against each other. One student said he got hurt recently at a PC room when he tried to stop a fight between two Korean teens who had accused each other of cheating.

These PC rooms, now almost half a decade old, have been the hangouts of many Korean teenagers and some gangsters. Because of the excessive amounts of PC rooms scattered through Koreatown and the Los Angeles area, gangs have claimed certain PC rooms as their hangouts. As these gang members come on a daily basis, rival gangs start to see a pattern and wait outside until a certain gang member, most of the time a Korean, comes out. When that person comes out, fights or brutal killings occur.

An 18- and a 17-year-old were shot on April 20 at 11:55 p.m. in front of PC Harvard Internet Game on 4151 West Third Street, according to police. The 17-year-old died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, and his friend was checked into a USC hospital in critical condition. They were visiting a PC room for apparently the first time and as they left, they were caught in the crossfire between two rival gangs, according to The Korea Times. Police would not disclose their names or the type of gun used in the shooting, said Officer Don Cox in the Wilshire station of the Los Angeles Police Department.

David Lee, 15, of Marshall High said, "It doesn’t matter that those two teens got shot. I feel sorry for them, but it depends on which PC room you go to, and I go to one where none of the gangs go."

With this killing, parents began to complain and forbid their teenagers to go to PC rooms. Frank Kim, 15, of Marshall High confessed, "My parents tell me not to go. I still go while lying. But at the end, I tell them the truth. I can’t help [going to see] the fine chicks and the fun of punking the FOBs [Fresh Off the Boats]."

James Goo, a Korea Times reporter told me, "Some of the PC room owners only care about the money. So even with the 10 p.m. curfew, they let minors come in and play. These teens who constantly lie and cheat their parents into going to these PC rooms will end messed up. We, as a Korean community, either need to set up more strict rules about coming to these PC rooms, or we just need to close them down."