Turkish Official Issues Pokémon Warning

I S T A N B U L, Turkey, Nov. 27, 2000 -- Turkey’s health minister urged TV stations Saturday to replace Pokémon cartoons with other children’s programs after a 7-year-old girl jumped off a balcony apparently believing she was a Pokémon character with superhuman powers.

Seda Aykanat, who jumped off her fifth-floor balcony Friday and broke her leg, was the second Turkish child to jump off a balcony apparently to imitate Pokémon characters — cartoon animals with special powers. Earlier, a 4-year-old boy sustained injuries after a similar jump.

Health Minister Osman Durmus already had asked ministry experts to study the effect of the Pokémon cartoon on children. The experts concluded Friday that the cartoon distanced children from reality, confused them by presenting both “good and bad heroes,” and desensitized them to violence, daily Hurriyet reported Saturday.

The ministry experts said the popularity of the cartoon and trading cards should be discouraged, but that they should not be banned since this could further attract children to the products, daily Hurriyet reported.

“Putting the cartoon off the air all of a sudden could lead to serious problems,” Durmus said Saturday. “Televisions must over a period of time make [children] forget the cartoon.”

The Pokémon phenomenon originated in Japan three years ago as a Nintendo Game Boy game. It quickly expanded into cartoons, comic books and trading cards, becoming a multibillion dollar enterprise and enjoying enormous popularity.

Spokesmen at Nintendo of America in Redmond, Wash., were not available for comment Saturday.