Becoming an esports athlete in Korea, an increasingly sought-after career K-Sélection
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Becoming an esports athlete in Korea, an increasingly sought-after career

For nearly two decades now, South Korea has been at the forefront of a global sports culture that is rapidly growing in popularity.

But unlike other sports, athletes do not physically outperform themselves or outlast each other. Rather, they engage their opponents through strategic thinking and expert manipulation of a mouse and keyboard in contests mediated by digital gaming environments.

Becoming an esports athlete in Korea, an increasingly sought-after career K-Sélection

Known as “e-sports” – an abbreviation of “electronic sports” – these competitions attract crowds of enthusiastic spectators in the tens of thousands and millions more via online video streaming services.

Not only have e-sports had a significant impact on Korean popular culture, but Korea has also influenced the development of global e-sports.

Becoming an esports athlete in Korea, an increasingly sought-after career K-Sélection

There is a certain sentence that says: “No matter how good you are at the game, there is always a Korean better than you. » And there is a good explanation for this.

An academy in central Seoul is teeming with teenagers after school hours as students divide into different classes that best match their skill levels. This academy does not teach English or math, but the game League of Legends (LoL), and other games.

Becoming an esports athlete in Korea, an increasingly sought-after career K-Sélection

A profession in its own right

More and more young people are heading towards the career of professional E-sports athlete.

The high salaries of the professional LoL league may be one of the factors that attract young Koreans to pursue this career.

Becoming an esports athlete in Korea, an increasingly sought-after career K-Sélection

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 (around 123 euros), according to the Korean industry survey electronic sports.

Although the LCK does not disclose their salaries, it is estimated that in 2022, the salary has increased significantly to around 600 million won (approximately 421 euros).

Becoming an esports athlete in Korea, an increasingly sought-after career K-Sélection

South Korean teams have regularly performed at the world championships, which has attracted foreign teams to recruit South Korean players. While the average earnings of esports players remain largely a secret, South Korean demand means top players can be offered contracts of even up to $20 million.

Beyond contractual agreements, tournament prizes, sponsorships and streaming, there are still other profitable opportunities for esports athletes

Becoming an esports athlete in Korea, an increasingly sought-after career K-Sélection

Academies and schools

Although recruiting esports athletes depends largely on each team's business model and game type, esports academies have been a popular way for esports companies with professional teams to develop talent and allow young players to hone their skills.

Becoming an esports athlete in Korea, an increasingly sought-after career K-Sélection

For example, esports company Gen. G launched its Seoul Elite Esports Academy in 2019. Aside from gaming coaching, the program also offers English-language instruction and an American high school diploma after graduation, allowing Korean graduates to pursue higher education in the USA.

Esports academies not only create a direct path to becoming a professional gamer, but also expand educational opportunities for everyone who attends, regardless of their professional status.

Becoming an esports athlete in Korea, an increasingly sought-after career K-Sélection

College-level esports are also growing in South Korea, but universities have been more proactive in integrating esports into the college environment.

In 2014, Chung-ang University officially recognized esports players as student-athletes, which meant that prospective students could be admitted based on their gaming performance rather than strictly academic.

Becoming an esports athlete in Korea, an increasingly sought-after career K-Sélection

Universities have also recognized the importance of the esports industry and infrastructure. Hanshin University has established a graduate school where students receive training on the relevance of esports to information technology, regulatory policy and technological innovation.

The growing acceptance of esports as an interdisciplinary industry could result in more future careers for young South Koreans in the field.

Becoming an esports athlete in Korea, an increasingly sought-after career K-Sélection

A booming market

The global market size of the e-sports industry is estimated at $1,38 billion at the end of last year, up 21,7% from the previous year, according to the e-sports company. Newzoo game analysis. The Korean esports market accounted for 9,9%.

Becoming an esports athlete in Korea, an increasingly sought-after career K-Sélection

The global market size is expected to reach $1,87 billion by 2025.

The mix of these factors – getting kids to pursue their dreams and learn self-discipline in a growing market – is enough to earn parental approval.

Becoming an esports athlete in Korea, an increasingly sought-after career K-Sélection

Professional gaming prospects happily pursue their dreams, although the road is not completely worry-free.

According to studies, approximately 0,001% of professional player prospects in Korea make it to LCK team membership.

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Se-ri

In recent years, e-sport has grown, gained popularity and generates a lot of money.

No wonder many young people are turning to this field, which contrary to what some people think, is more difficult than it seems.

It’s a great recognition for all these previously underestimated talents and it’s also a pleasure to see young people passionate and dedicated to their art.

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