Military exemption for South Korean gamers reignites debate


E-sports will be contested at the Games in EA Sports FC, PUBG Mobile, Arena of Valor, Dota 2, League of Legends, Dream Three Kingdoms 2 and Street Fighter V.

South Korea is often recognised as the country where e-sports, or professional gaming, started.

Easy access to high-speed Internet and the emergence of “PC bangs” – Internet cafes – in the 1990s fostered a social gaming culture among South Korean youths that quickly grew to a massive global community of gamers.

“If Athens is the birthplace of the Olympics, the birthplace of e-sports is Seoul,” said Kang Do-kyung, a professional gamer-turned-professor at Shingu College.

The Seoul government and the country’s e-sports body poured in resources to make sure the 15 players on the national team are in tip-top condition for the Games.

In the build-up Seoul provided a training centre which included physiotherapy and counselling.

The Korea e-Sports Association reserved five-star hotel rooms near the Games venue where they will serve Korean meals to ensure the players feel at home.


E-sports was a demonstration sport at the 2018 Asian Games, when South Korea’s League of Legends team lost to China in the final.

Revenge will be on their mind, but the team declined to say if avoiding military service was too.

“Five years ago we had to settle for a silver medal, but this time we have strong players and there are many people who support us,” Faker said.

“I will work hard with the belief that we will definitely win,” he added.

If they do win gold, and with it an exemption, it is likely to trigger the whole debate all over again.

The general public will likely feel about e-sports exemptions like they did BTS potentially getting one – broadly opposed, reporter Kim Geon-ho wrote in the Segye Ilbo newspaper.

Even though he had one, Son still had to do three weeks training in the military, which is standard even for those given the right to opt out of full service.

“It was a good experience,” he told Spurs TV.

“The three weeks were tough but I tried to enjoy it.”


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