Video gaming is practically a national sport in South Korea. The country boasts a robust professional video game, or "e-sports," industry, featuring multiple leagues and corporate-sponsored teams . The top players are celebrities and rake in $100,000-plus salaries. In 2000, the Korean e-Sports Players Association (KeSPA) was established with the approval of the Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. KeSPA provides monthly rankings for the top StarCraft players, the most popular spectator e-sport in the country. Two television networks provide round-the-clock e-sports coverage.
In 2001, South Korea hosted the first annual World Cyber Games (WCG). Approximately 800 players from 78 countries competed in 14 different games at the 2008 CWG in Cologne, Germany. South Korea won seven medals currently stands first in the all-time WCG rankings.
- A professional gamer's heart rate can reach as high as 160 beats per minute -- equivalent to that of professional basketball player -- while both hands work the mouse and keyboard at speeds of about 500 clicks per minute
- More than 430 professional gamers are registered with KeSPA in 23 official games
- The average annual salary of professional gamers is estimated around $20,000 -- slightly above the average Korean's salary
- From 2000 to 2008, the number of registered professional gamers has increased by 16.3 percent annually
- Korea has more than 15 million e-sports fans, and e-sports are the second most-watched sports programs at 33.1 percent after soccer at 57.3 percent
- 120,000 spectators came to an outdoor stadium in Busan, South Korea, to watch StarCraft at the 2005 SKY Pro League final -- roughly 50,000 more than attended the Super Bowl in 2009
- The age of professional gamers generally ranges between 15 and 30, and the average pro-gamer is 20.4
- The success of StarCraft leagues showed signs of slowing down in 2008
- eSports Biz in Korea [PDF]
- Korean e-Sports Players Association (KeSPA)
- World Cyber Games
- Korea Times article on Starcraft's decline
StarCraft is a real-time strategy game originally released by Blizzard Entertainment in 1998. The futuristic game takes place in a remote corner of the galaxy and allows each player to control one of three species -- Terran (humans), Zerg and Protoss -- as they manage resources, build armies and battle against each other. Each species has its own built-in advantages and disadvantages, and thus each requires a unique strategy. Professional StarCraft players typically specialize in playing one specific species, and team rosters consist of expert players of each species. Games can pit one player against another, or they can feature as many as eight players at once.
StarCraft is the most popular e-sport, or professional video game, in South Korea. Two TV networks are dedicated entirely to gaming telecast matches, and each has its own "Starleague." Players began to register as professionals in 2000, and many professional gamers now play for teams with sponsorships from corporations such as the telecommunications companies Samsung, SK Telecom, and KTF. Even the South Korean Air Force has its own team. The best players walk away with six-figure salaries, as well as prize winnings and commercial endorsements. StarCraft has been a popular event at the World Cyber Games since 2001 when Seoul, South Korea, hosted the inaugural games. Blizzard Entertainment has sold more than four million copies of the game in South Korea.
ClubDay 2008 in the MBCGame StarLeague (MSL) on Oct. 16, 2008
Jin Young-soo, screenname HwaSin
Kim Taek-yong, screenname Bisu