Becoming an e-sportsman in Korea, an increasingly sought-after career
South Korea has been at the forefront of a rapidly growing global sports culture for nearly two decades.
But unlike other sports, athletes don’t physically outperform and outlast each other. Rather, they engage their opponents through strategic thinking and mouse and keyboard skill in competitions mediated through digital gaming environments.
These competitions, known as “e-sports” – short for “electronic sports” – attract crowds of enthusiastic viewers numbering in the tens of thousands and millions via online video streaming services.
Esports has not only had a significant impact on Korean popular culture, but Korea has also influenced the development of global esports.
There is a certain phrase that says: “No matter how good you are at the game, there is always a Korean who is better than you. » And there is a good explanation for that.
An academy in central Seoul is teeming with after-school youth who split into classes best suited to their abilities. This academy does not teach English or Maths but teaches League of Legends (LoL) game and other games.
A profession in itself
More and more young people are aiming for a career as a professional e-sportsman.
The high salaries in LoL’s pro league could be one of the factors that motivate young Koreans to pursue this career.
In 2018, the average annual salary of players in the League of Legends Champions Korea (LCK), the country’s top league, was around 176 million won (about 123,500 euros), according to the Korean Industry Survey. electronic sports.
Although the LCK does not disclose its salaries, it is estimated that salaries have increased significantly to around 600 million won in 2022.
South Korean teams made regular appearances at World Cups, prompting foreign teams to recruit South Korean players. While the average earnings of esports players remain largely a mystery, South Korean demand means top players can even be offered contracts as high as $20 million.
In addition to contracts, tournament prizes, sponsorship and streaming, there are other lucrative opportunities for e-sportsmen.
academies and schools
Although the recruitment of eSports athletes largely depends on the business model and type of game played by each team, eSports academies are a popular way for eSports companies with professional teams to develop talent and provide opportunities for young players give to improve their skills.
For example, esports company Gen. G launched its Seoul Elite Esports Academy in 2019. In addition to game coaching, the program also offers English classes and an American high school diploma after graduation, allowing Korean graduates to pursue higher education in the United States.
Esports academies not only open up a direct path to becoming a professional gamer, but also expand educational opportunities for all participants, regardless of professional status.
Esports is also growing at the college level in South Korea, although universities have been more proactive in integrating esports into the higher education environment.
In 2014, Chung-ang University officially recognized eSports players as student athletes, meaning prospective students could be admitted based on their gaming performance rather than purely academic.
Universities have also recognized the importance of the esports industry and infrastructure. Hanshin University has established a graduate school to train students on the importance of esports for information technology, regulatory policy and technological innovation.
The growing acceptance of esports as an interdisciplinary industry could lead to more future careers for young South Koreans in this field.
A booming market
According to the company, the global esports industry market size was estimated at $1.38 billion at the end of last year, up 21.7% year-on-year. Newzoo game analysis. The Korean esports market accounted for 9.9%.
By 2025, the global market is expected to reach $1.87 billion.
The combination of these factors – empowering children to pursue their dreams and learning self-discipline in a growing market – is enough to gain parental approval.
Prospective gamers like to pursue their dreams, even if the path is not completely carefree.
According to studies, about 0.001% of prospective professional players in Korea manage to become a member of the LCK team.