E-sports talent in South Korea gets boost from big business, easing of gaming ban

GOVERNMENT APATHY?Despite the growing international status and interest among prospective professional players, government support for the e-sports industry, estimated in 2020 to be worth around 17.9 trillion won (US$15.2 billion), has been lacklustre, experts say. E-sports and the gaming sector received 67.1 billion won of the 604.4 trillion won national budget for next year. But the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism wants to do more, especially ahead of organised competitions such as the Asian Games, an official said without giving details. In the meantime, the space has been filled with investments from big businesses and private educational institutes. Instant noodle maker Nongshim launched its professional League of Legends gaming team, Nongshim RedForce, late last year, joining other South Korean conglomerates that have seen potential in the industry. Among them are SK Group's SK Telecom, Hyundai Motor affiliate Kia Corporation, Hanwha Group's Hanwha Life Insurance and KT Corporation. "The e-sports industry continued growing, but the state-led support measures have been weak, with corporate sponsorships and private academies mainly having driven the industry," said Oh Ji-hwan, CEO of Nongshim E-Sports. Oh said businesses consider the e-sports scene as a platform to reach younger generations and improve their brand image. SK Telecom-backed team T1, on which Faker, the most famous League of Legends gamer of all time, plays, opened its e-sports academy last month. The 20-week programme costs 5.6 million won, but applications are flooding in, it said. As yet, there is only one school in South Korea with e-sports on its academic curriculum aimed at fostering professional gamers. Teenager Yoon makes a two-hour round trip to Eunpyeong Meditech High School every day to bolster his pro gamer chances. Nongshim's Oh says support for gaming talent from both the government and the private sector is paramount as South Korea's market will never be as big as that of the United States or China. "Focusing on talent is the key," he said. "The buildup of talent development knowhow should be our strength."

E-sports talent in South Korea gets boost from big business, easing of gaming ban

GOVERNMENT APATHY?

Despite the growing international status and interest among prospective professional players, government support for the e-sports industry, estimated in 2020 to be worth around 17.9 trillion won (US$15.2 billion), has been lacklustre, experts say.

E-sports and the gaming sector received 67.1 billion won of the 604.4 trillion won national budget for next year.

But the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism wants to do more, especially ahead of organised competitions such as the Asian Games, an official said without giving details.

In the meantime, the space has been filled with investments from big businesses and private educational institutes.

Instant noodle maker Nongshim launched its professional League of Legends gaming team, Nongshim RedForce, late last year, joining other South Korean conglomerates that have seen potential in the industry.

Among them are SK Group's SK Telecom, Hyundai Motor affiliate Kia Corporation, Hanwha Group's Hanwha Life Insurance and KT Corporation.

"The e-sports industry continued growing, but the state-led support measures have been weak, with corporate sponsorships and private academies mainly having driven the industry," said Oh Ji-hwan, CEO of Nongshim E-Sports.

Oh said businesses consider the e-sports scene as a platform to reach younger generations and improve their brand image.

SK Telecom-backed team T1, on which Faker, the most famous League of Legends gamer of all time, plays, opened its e-sports academy last month. The 20-week programme costs 5.6 million won, but applications are flooding in, it said.

As yet, there is only one school in South Korea with e-sports on its academic curriculum aimed at fostering professional gamers. Teenager Yoon makes a two-hour round trip to Eunpyeong Meditech High School every day to bolster his pro gamer chances.

Nongshim's Oh says support for gaming talent from both the government and the private sector is paramount as South Korea's market will never be as big as that of the United States or China.

"Focusing on talent is the key," he said. "The buildup of talent development knowhow should be our strength."