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eSports in South Korea: the champion does not go to military service

eSports in South Korea: the champion does not go to military service

With their keyboards and mice, the South Korean prodigies of the eSport participate in the Asian Games, which begin on Saturday, with a double prize on the horizon: a gold medal that would allow them a rare exemption from military service.

A title in Hanghzhou (China) at the end of September will automatically allow the winners to escape 18 months or even more in the army.

This measure, which was already applied to other sports, has been extended to eSport because in the current edition of the Asian Games, video games go from an exhibition event to a true discipline of the program. There will be seven competitions, including the number 1 in the genre, League of Legends, EA Sports FC (formerly FIFA) or Street Fighter V.

All trained South Korean men must complete at least a year and a half of military service, mainly because the country of 52 million people is still in a declared war with its neighbor North Korea.

In this context, exemptions are given in dribs and drabs, for example to people who are dedicated to classical music, and always generate heated debates.

The pop group BTS, despite its spectacular international success, did not benefit. Jin, J-Hope and SUGA, three of its members, have already started service, according to the agency. ‘boys band’ HYBE.

The government considered exempting the members of the group but, according to a Gallup poll in 2022, only 33% of the population supported the initiative.

The debate returned to the table with the Asian Games, where South Korean eSport, which dominates the discipline along with China, has many title options.

‘Athens of eSport’

Team coach Kim Jeong-gyun stated that “the sense of duty” will be the only motivation of its players, but experts estimate that military service is “very important” for usually very young athletes.

“They begin their careers in their late teens. The exemption is a great extra motivation for them”said Professor Choi of Hanshin University.

South Korea has dozens of top eSports specialists, starting with the captain of the delegation, Lee ‘Faker’ Sang-hyeok, game master ‘Lol‘, five against five with the objective of destroying the opponent’s base.

Between an ultra-fast internet connection and the proliferation of Internet cafes dedicated to the Games, known as ‘PC bangs’, South Korea has built a huge community of ‘gamers’.

“If Athens was the birthplace of the Olympic Games, Seoul is the birthplace of eSports,” said Kang Do-kyung, a former professional player turned teacher.

A sign that the electronic game is being taken very seriously is that Seoul has launched the means that the prodigies of the screen need: a training center with physiotherapists, psychological help, a five-star hotel with Korean dishes… Everything everything you need to feel at home in Hanghzhou.

In 2018, South Korea lost the final of the demonstration tournament against China in ‘League of Legends’.

This year the country is going for gold, although the athletes do not point to not completing military service as their motivation. “I want to get a good result because we wear the national flag on our clothes,” said Jeong Ji-hoon, ‘Chovy’, player of ‘League of Legends’.

Even if they win, they will not escape controversy. According to official figures, less than 100 exemptions were agreed to “arts and sports” in 2022. And beneficiaries must demonstrate in public that they are committed to their country.

Some even perform other types of service to prove their commitment, like soccer star Son Heung-min, who volunteered.

Source: AFP

Source: Gestion

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