- Yoon Ki-chan is member of the new generation of South Korean teens that want to enter the professional gaming industry
- South Korea lifts a 10-year gaming curfew ban, while China implements one
- Businesses remain the main sponsors in South Korea’s growing esports field
South Korean teen Yoon Ki-chan wants to become a top League of Legends professional and with the blessing of his parents and teachers, he might as well be on the way.
The New Generation of South Korean Pros
South Korea has produced many esports champions over the years and a large portion of them have been LoL professionals. Amongst the new generation of gamers is Yoon Ki-chan, a 16-year-old South Korean boy who dreams of becoming a professional esports player.
Yoon and his peers have been benefiting from South Korea's recent lifting of the gaming curfew ban, which forbade those under 16 years of age to play on their computers from midnight to 6 a.m. The curfew was there in the first place as many government officials were concerned that children were spending too much time playing games. The ban was recently lifted as it was noticed children simply spend a lot of their time on their phones instead.
“I suffered a lot from the shutdown law. I typically don't sleep a lot, so I studied different things during the shutdown hours. If it weren't for the law, I could have been a better player by now,” Yoon told Reuters.
This ban lifting is opposite to what China is currently doing. The country implemented a system to limit minors from playing games to no more than three hours a week in August.
Park Se-woon, vice president at Seoul Game Academy, said that the Chinese ban along with the South Korean lifting means this is a good time for South Korea to “build strength and regain the esports initiative”.
Rise of Competitive Gaming in South Korea
Esports are rising in popularity around the world and the country, yet despite this, government support for the esports industry has not been too strong.
As the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism wants to do more for the growing subculture, the main sponsors of the field are coming from surprising parts of the private sector. Nongshim Co Ltd is a large instant noodle maker, who launched its professional League of Legends gaming team, Nongshim RedForce, late last year is one good example.
Other major companies that have sponsored teams in the gaming field are Hyundai Motor Co affiliate Kia Corp, Hanwha Group's Hanwha Life Insurance, and KT Corp.
Oh Ji-hwan, CEO of Nongshim E-Sports, said that the country’s support measures have been weak, even as the esports field continues to grow, “with corporate sponsorships and private academies mainly having driven the industry.”
Currently, there is only one school in South Korea that provides esports training on its academic curriculum. Yoon makes a two-hour round trip to Eunpyeong Meditech High School every day in the hopes that this will help him achieve his dream of becoming a pro.
Oh Ji-hwan explains that financial support from both government and business is crucial as South Korea's market will never be as big as that of the United States or China. “The buildup of talent development knowhow should be our strength,” he says.