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Korean Couple Nurtured Virtual Baby While Real Baby Starved to Death, Say Reports

Screen grab of Prius Online (Netmarble)
Screen grab of Prius Online (Netmarble)

NEW YORK (CBS) They may have excelled as online parents, but prosecutors in South Korea say a young couple from Suwon province failed miserably at the real thing.

According to prosecutors, the couple would put their daughter to bed at night and then sneak off to a neighborhood internet cafe for 10-hour gaming sessions in a role-playing game called "Prius Online." Prosecutors say that in the Second Life-style game, the couple raised a virtual baby, while their real daughter was given just one bottle of milk a day, Korean news report said.

The 40-year-old man and his common-law wife pleaded guilty Friday to negligent homicide in the malnutrition death of their 3-month-old premature daughter, according to the Korean news agency Yonhap News.

One police officer familiar with the case told Yonhap News that he believed the couple was trying to escape what they saw as a hopeless situation.

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

Part of the couple's defense was that they were hopelessly addicted to online gaming and the mother said she was ill-prepared for motherhood and received no counseling from the hospital, CNN reported.

"When she cried, I cuddled her, but I noticed she was getting thinner," the mother told the court. The couple is expecting a second child and their lawyer asked the judge to consider this in their sentencing.

Prosecutors are seeking a five-year sentence for the couple.