In recent years, cyber violence has been something that many people have been battling against in South Korea. It comes in many forms, including hate comments and cyberbullying, and while the general public may consider K-pop celebrities to be prime examples of being victims, it’s something that also affects regular people.
Stars like Sulli from the K-pop group “f(x)”, to Goo Hara from “Kara”, who unfortunately committed suicide due to virtual violence, may be cases that the general public is more aware of. However, amongst young Koreans and especially among students, cyberbullying frequently occurs through messenger apps, and such cases are just as serious.
Unfortunately, this virtual malice has crept onto traditional sports, as well as esports. Leeco Sports Agency, one of the biggest sports agencies in Korea that represent many Korean sports stars, has recently put out a post on their official Instagram page, which basically declared war against those that practice online hate speech against their players, but is also campaigning to clean up the toxic culture that has existed for a long time.
In recent days, three LCK teams have put out a statement about such virtual violence against their players as well. On August 8, Hanwha Life esports put out a statement on their official Facebook page regarding such hate comments against their players, asking (and hoping) for more constructive criticism and support towards their players, while also suggesting legal action if such online hate ensues.
SeolHaeOne Prince followed suit. Kang Do-gyeong, the general manager for SP, told Inven Global:
“The players are receiving a lot of hate comments and spiteful DMs. Despite telling them not to read them for the betterment of their mental state, the players eventually do come across them. The hate comments definitely do have a negative impact on their mental state, which leads to a further decline in their performance. Not only will we be actively campaigning to create a healthier online esports culture, but if other teams decide to take an active stance and explore legal action, we will also be standing alongside them.”
On August 10, T1 also put out a statement condemning such violent virtual attacks. In the statement, Joe Marsh, the CEO of T1 Entertainment & Sports, addressed the matter of online violence, and stated that T1 “acknowledges that criticism comes with the territory of professional gaming; however, recent incidents have threatened our team’s health and safety - overstepping the lines of fandom with violent threats and hate speech.” Marsh added that if it continues, T1 will pursue legal action to put an end to it, citing that “there is no place for hate in esports.”
In an August 9 interview for Inven Global with T1 head coach Kim Jeong-soo, Coach Kim detailed the types of messages that he gets. He stated that sometimes he even gets messages where it’s just “a ghastly picture of a ghost, with red captions that say something like ‘You f***ing die’.” Coach Kim further stated that these hate messages aren’t even about the team’s performance, where actual threats against his life were made if T1 wouldn’t start their superstar mid laner, Lee “Faker'' Sang-hyeok, in matches. While Kim said he feels okay with bringing criticism to the table, he asked that people “refrain from writing personal attacks and respect boundaries.”
A 2018 report by the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism revealed that roughly eight out of 10 South Koreans suffered from online hate speech. The public eye has seen it time and time again, agreeing that no form of violence is the solution to anything. With such a culture that only incites toxicity, LCK teams taking an active stance on this matter is a step in creating a healthier esports culture. It’s a movement that everyone needs to be a part of, as there is no place for virtual violence — not just in esports, but anywhere else.
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