In this article we consider what position League of Legends takes in the rich cybersport area of South Korea.
GAMING IN SOUTH KOREA
South Korea is probably the only country in the world where playing video games is not taboo. In fact, video games are considered to be a major social activity, with most games being cooperative or competitive. Locally developed games such as Role-playing games, MMORPGs and mobile games are very popular in the country. Professional competition surrounding video games, especially real time strategy games, also sees a lot of popularity from Koreans, they even broadcast major tournaments with large prizes on television. There are many big game companies in South Korea, such as Nexon, Hangame and others, but the most popular game there until recently, Starcraft, was created by Blizzard Entertainment. Given Koreans like real time strategy games, it was easy for League of Legends to become one of the best games there.
LEAGUE OF LEGENDS IN SOUTH KOREA
League of Legends released to the western part of the world in October 2009 and it quickly became one of the most popular video games ever, having fans of the Warcraft 3, Defense of the Ancients map come to play Riot’s new game. After seeing such success, in 2012 the game began to be very popular in the eastern countries as well, such as China and South Korea. Even though the game is older in the west, the Chinese and Korean servers house the most people. By March 2012, the game became the #1 title in Korean PC cafes meaning that the westerners aren’t the only ones who enjoy playing League of Legends very much.
All servers have their own Championship Series, in Europe and North America it’s called League Championship Series, in Korea it’s League Champions Korea and in China it’s called LoL Professional League. Ever since Season 2, Koreans have been dominant in the eSports scene, being in the finals of all the World Championships and also winning two of them. In Season 2, Azubu Frost was playing the finals against Taipei Assassins and lost, but they still showed great, in Season 3, SKT T1 had won over their Chinese rivals on Royal Club and in Season 4, Samsung Galaxy White beat Royal Club to achieve another World Championship win for Korea. Right now, in Season 5, the teams from LCK are still showing really well, SKT being first again after being in a slump in the fourth season, now they had lost only one match and continue to show increasing potential.
In season 4, the world championship had multiple buildings assigned to it during the timeframe in which it would be played. It was played in 3 countries: Taiwan, Singapore and Korea, with Korea holding the spot for the grand finals where it won and the fans went wild, cheering for the players they share the same nationality with.
HISTORY OF LEAGUE CHAMPIONS KOREA
Before Riot Games enforced their rules over all regions and changing the names of their Leagues, the South Korean professional league was called OGN Champions because the Korean cable television company, Ongamenet showed it’s support to the League of Legends fans and professional players by becoming a very important official sponsor at Yongsan eSports stadium and starting from March 2012 it showed live, biweekly broadcasts of League of Legends tournaments with 16 participating teams from Korea, USA and Europe. The prize for the tournament was 200 million won, around $180.000 back then. The fact that League of Legends became so popular in the Korean culture dispelled the stereotype that if you’re a Korean gamer then you have to play Starcraft.
Korea is regarded as the best country to ever play in League of Legends tournaments, having the most wins out of all the regions and playing the best games.
LEAGUE OF LEGENDS TEAMS IN KOREA
Teams that are foreign to Korea have seen that Korean players are very good at the game and they are really hard working, so they hired several people such as Huni and ReignOver on Fnatic, Ryu on H2k, H0r0 on Unicorns of Love, LustBoy on Team Solo Mid and Fenix and the World Champion Piglet on Team Liquid to improve their roster and become better teams in the big picture. Not all Korean imports were good though, CLG having played with Seraph and failing miserably, losing many matches and almost going into relegation matches.
Teams haven’t only hired Korean players, but they have also made their infrastructure alike to the one Koreans have, by hiring game coaches, life coaches, analysts and other staff members to help their players improve and receive more money from tournament winnings while keeping their spot in the League Championship Series.
The most iconic League of Legends Korean teams are images of their former selves, being remembered as how they were in their prime, when they played the most important matches they have ever had and these teams are: SK Telecom T1, Azubu Frost, called CJ Entus now and Samsung Galaxy White, called Samsung Galaxy now.
History of SK Telecom T1
SK Telecom T1 is a team that has been around since Season 3 when they had won the World Championship. They have only played bad in the fourth season and now we can safely say that they are in their prime. All Korean teams are improving drastically from what we’ve seen in the past and having only one loss to your name is a huge deal when facing such great players that have trained so hard. Right now, SK Telecom T1 is made of Marin in the top lane, Bengi in the jungle, Faker in the mid lane, Bang and Wolf on the bottom lane. They also have two substitutes that they switch around each time they want or have to: T0M and Easyhoon. Each time they swap the players, the whole team plan changes because they are very different from what the players on the starting roster are like. Bengi is a jungler that is more passive and focuses more around farming and taking care of vision, while T0M is more focused on pulling off ganks and making sure that skirmishes are on his team’s terms, by being the deciding factor. In the middle lane it’s the other way around: Faker is the more aggressive player while Easyhoon is a little more passive. Of course, both of them are great players who know when they have to be more passive or when they should be aggressive, but overall, Faker is the more aggressive player, even if their skill is very alike. Besides the substitutes, the team’s other players are also great: Marin is the player who almost never loses his lane, not even when the enemy team initiates a lane swap; he always stays ahead of his counterpart and when the lanes swap back to normal he starts bashing them and thus increasing his advantage by a good margin. Bang and Wolf are two players that play really well when together, being able to beat other bot lanes in 2 versus 2 scenarios and also being able to farm safely when the enemy team focuses their strength on them to make Bang be behind his counterpart. After the lane phase is over, these two become menaces for the enemy team, Wolf putting wards everywhere and initiating team fights where his team has the upper hand at all times and Bang being able to dish out huge amounts of damage while barely getting touched by the enemy team because of his great game knowledge, superior positioning and aggressive manner.
History of CJ ENTUS
CJ Entus is another team that was very iconic for Korea when it played under the name Azubu Frost. Back then it was made of Shy, Rapid Star, Cloud Templar, Woong and Mad Life. After they changed Locodoco for Woong, they had been sponsored by Azubu and from their former name as MiG Frost they had it change to Azubu Frost and later the same year they had won the first place at Azubu The Champions Summer 2012 and after that they had qualified for the World Championship where they had a great showing. They had the shortest straw in the random drawing to determine group stage byes and they had to play in the group stage against Invictus Gaming, SK Gaming and CLG Prime. Azubu Frost wasn’t stopped by the group stage, advancing further into the quarterfinals where they had to face Team Solo Mid. They beat TSM easily and looking unbeatable, they advanced into the semifinals where they had to play against CLG.Eu. The European team had ended Azubu Frost’s winning spree by winning a game against them, but after that win they had lost 2 times in a row, thus making Azubu Frost advance into the finals against Taipei Assasins. Unfortunately for the Korean squad, their reign of dominance would end there as the Taipei Assassins brought home the championship with a 3-1 victory. Azubu Frost settled for second place and a $250,000 dollar prize.
They are one of the most known Korean teams because Season 2 was the first time the Koreans got to play League of Legends with a really high viewer count and it made them really popular as great players from Europe and North America had lost against them.
Right now, they are still one of the best teams in Korea, but they seem rather sloppy right now compared to the other Korean teams, even if they are on a good place in the standings and they might get to the World Championship this year.
History of Samsung Galaxy White
Samsung Galaxy White is a Korean team that was formerly known as MVP Ozone. The team was made of Looper, PawN, DanDy, Imp and Mata. The team had been to two World Championships, once in Season 3 and second in Season 4. During Season 3 they had lost in the group stages to teams such as Fnatic and Gambit Gaming. They had the same amount of wins as Gambit, but they lost the tiebreaker and had came out as 9th-10th along with Lemondogs.
After another season of playing together and after swapping dade with PawN, they had gone second in OGN Champions Summer 2014, but they qualified to the World Championship by earning enough points. Samsung Galaxy White has been seeded into Group A along with Edward Gaming, Ahq e-Sports Club and Dark Passage, and they had never lost a game, getting coming out of the group stage as 6-0. In the quarterfinals they had to play against Team Solo Mid to which they lost a single game and had the next 3 games be stomps. In the semifinals they faced their sister team, Samsung Galaxy Blue, who were the favorites to win the championship, but White managed to beat them 3-0 and go on into the finals to fight against Starhorn Royal Club for the grand prize. They beat Royal Club 3-1 and took the prize home for Korea.
After they won the Season 4 World Championship, the players had left the team, all of them moving to Chinese teams because of the higher salaries they would receive. DanDy and Mata went to Vici Gaming, Imp was hired by LGD Gaming, PawN went to Edward Gaming alongside Deft from Samsung Galaxy Blue and Looper went to Team World Elite Academy only to join Master3 alongside Dade later the same month.
Samsung Galaxy White isn’t the only team to disband because the players went to China, their sister team, Samsung Galaxy Blue, did the same thing, Acorn going to LGD Gaming, Spirit going to Team World Elite, Heart being hired by Vici Stand Gaming only to move to Unlimited Potential later the same month. Dade went to Team World Elite Academy, but went to Masters3 later and Deft went to Edward Gaming.
Right now, Samsung Galaxy is made of CuVee, Eve, Crown, Fury and Luna and they aren’t doing so well, being on the 7th place in the standings and might get relegated into the lesser championship series, where they would have to play for a spot back into the LoL Championship Series where they would need to win games to keep their spot and not be relegated again.
In conclusion, Korea adopted League of Legends from the beginning of it’s service to Korea and they got really good at it right at the start, being able to show up big in the World Championships.