A new partnership between the Olympic Council of Asia and Alisports, a subdivision of Alibaba could have interesting ramifications for South Korean pro gamers. The alliance will bring esports to several major sporting events in Asia throughout the year, including the Summer Asian Games.
Esports, Military Service, and South Korea
All able-bodied men in South Korea are required at some point to serve a mandatory two years of military service. According to the report from Inven Global, certain individuals who exhibit an outstanding capacity for arts or sports are able to defer the required military service in favor of another form of service to the nation.
Team Liquid’s jungler Reignover discussed the mandatory military service when he was asked about it in an interview with Slingshot back in February. Understandably, it was something he tried not to think about very much. But for South Korean professional gamers, it is something they will all have to face when they retire.
The new arrangement, however, could provide a small number of pros with a way out of the mandatory military service. South Korean athletes are required to achieve a gold medal in the Asian Games in order to qualify for the exemption. So, while only the best of the best in any given title will be able to qualify for this alternative path, it is not clear yet just how many titles will be played competitively at the Summer Asian Games.
A report from Blitz Esports also points out that several South Korean pros have already completed their mandatory military service, such as MaRin, who formerly played League of Legends on SK Telecom T1, and currently plays for Afreeca Freecs. Alisports has been a major investor in esports in the past year, with donations in excess of $150 million.