In Korean gaming communities, the fact that pro gamers have to serve for the military has always been a hot issue, since it is your duty to serve if you are a Korean man. Most pro gamers tend to postpone their military duties because they mostly peak in their early 20s, and serving for the military for about 2 years can hold back their gaming career.
* Note: Most Korean men serve their military duty in their early 20s.
In some cases, the South Korean Ministry of National Defense(MND) grants military exemption to those who show exceptional performance in international sports events. One of the examples of exemption is for those who receive a gold medal in the Asian Games. That is why a lot of fans paid careful attention when esports became a demonstration event in the 2018 Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games; it was not clear whether receiving a gold medal in a demonstration event would count as a reason for exemption.
When esports was first chosen as a demonstration event, the military exemption itself wasn’t the actual focal point among the fans. At that point, it wasn’t even certain whether the Republic of Korea could participate in the esports event during the 2018 Asian Games due to the miscommunication between the Korean e-sports Association(KeSPA) and the Korean Sport & Olympic Committee(KSOC). Now that the Daejeon Sports Council(DSC) stood up to help KeSPA, participation is no longer a problem. Naturally, the focus is now shifting towards whether a gold medal would grant exemption to the participants.
According to the KSOC in April, “Whether it is an official event or a demonstration event, receiving a gold medal in the Asian Games should lead to military exemption. However, there were no specific discussions regarding esports. We will discuss this later on.” Eventually, this means that the decision is up to the MND since they are in charge of every issue regarding military service.
On May 25th, Inven was able to reach out to the MND and heard about their stance on this issue. “There are no clear rules to whether ‘a demonstration event shouldn’t grant military exemption.’ However, eventually we came to a conclusion that in this Asian Games, esports does not relate to military exemption nor monthly pensions; a case for it doesn’t even exist at all.”
To hear more about this issue, Inven made a call to the KSOC and asked for their thoughts about the above decision. “Military exemption and monthly pensions are not under our jurisdiction. It is the MND and the Korea Sports Promotion Foundation(KSPO)’s. It seems that the two have decided to not grant any benefits(military exemption and pension) for the medalists.”
This means that in this upcoming 2018 Asian Games, there are no exemption and monthly pensions for the esports event medalists. It is predicted that when esports becomes an official event for the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games, pro gamers will get the chance to receive military exemption.
Meanwhile, pro gamers are now showing signs of negativity towards participation itself; the prize money is rather low and now they don’t have the chance to earn military exemption. The gamers as well as the team staff members are starting to believe that performing in the Asian Games will be a minus for the team.