Esports coming to the Asian Games, possibly offering alternatives for military conscription in Korea

The Olympic Council of Asia partnered with Alisports, which is the sports division of the Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba, to bring esports events to the 2017 Ashgabat Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games, the 2017 Jakarta Asian Games, the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games, as well as the Summer Asian games.

OCA President Ahmad Fahad Al-Sabah said, “OCA has always been committed to the inheritance, development, and improvement of Asian sports." He continued, "And we look forward to the forward-thinking concepts of sports by Alisports, who will be helping us with their strength and experience in esports.”

In addition to today’s announcement, Alisports has invested over $14.5 million to organize the World Electronic Sports Games with a prize pool of $5.5 million last year. Alisports also extended the contract for the WESG and also established a partnership with the International eSports Foundation.

It is not yet clear what esports titles will be added or whether they will be official or demonstration sports for the 2018 and 2022 Summer Asian Games. In the past, IeSF played a pivotal role in including esports like League of Legends, StarCraft 2, and Tekken to 2013 the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games.

If esports gain an official sports status in the Asian Games, it could offer Korean players other ways to serve their mandatory military service. Under the current Korean Conscription Law, all eligible men must serve in the military for two years.

However, a few extraordinary individuals in arts and sports areas may fulfill their duties in an alternative civilian service: namely, getting a bronze medal or above in the Olympics or a gold in the Asian Games. Those who qualify can continue to pursue their fields for the duration mandated by the law without taking the time off to serve in the army.

Although Asian Games is primarily targeted towards Asian audiences, it is a one step closer to mainstream acceptance, considering IeSF has been trying to add esports to the Olympics since 2008. On the other hand, critics argue that esports should pursue a different route rather than following traditional competition models like the Olympics.

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