South Korea is one of those countries where military service is still mandatory, which has always become a problem for many Korean athletes and, in modern times, for “electronic athletes” too.
Many of them had to put their careers on stand by to do the military service and only a few exceptions took place, for the highest level athletes. Obviously, it has never included Esports professional players, not even the top tier Korean players… not even Lee “Faker” Sang-Hyeok.
But now, this situation could change thanks to a new bill that is being planned in Korea for those who contributed to the country’s global image:
A new bill is being planned in Korea (might as well call it the “BTS and Faker bill”), to allow individuals who have made significant contributions to Korea’s global image through pop culture and/or esports to delay their military service until age 30. https://t.co/aBHaKPLMTv
— Kwanghee Woo (@SaintSnorlax) September 2, 2020
Yes, we could literally call this new bill “BTS and Faker bill” since these two would be the main beneficiaries. BTS is an international K-Pop band, probably the most famous Korean band in the world, while we all know what Faker has achieved.
It is very well known that T1’s mid laner has contributed to his country much more than any other League of Legends player, much more than any other Esports player… after winning the LCK nine times, the Mid Season Invitational twice, and being three times World Champion, he deserves to benefit from this new bill without hesitation.
With the new bill, Faker could delay his military service until the age of 30 years old. But… what happens if the bill does not prosper?
Although the Korean government could allow Faker to postpone the military service a bit more, the legendary mid laner should eventually retire to do it. It could clearly be the end of his career as a professional League of Legends player since Faker could spend an entire year without practising (as an example, take a look at FORG1VEN‘s experience).
Actually, there was a precedent like this. Go “Score” Dong-bin, who was the jungler for KT Rolster his entire career, managed to delay his military service until the age of 28, the age when he retired.
But problems do not end here. Faker really needs this new bill to be approved if he wants to be part of the 2021 League of Legends World Championship, and the reason is pretty tricky:
Due to COVID-19, as many of you may know, 2020 World Championship is set to be celebrated in Shanghai, and Riot Games’ intentions were to use this tournament to celebrate the 10th anniversary of their most successful game. Nevertheless, due to the pandemic, most of the planned events had to be cancelled.
For that reason, the videogame company decided to celebrate the World Championship in China again next year, so they can perform a big tour full of the insane events they have been announcing.
And here is the problem!! Korea has a very particular law regarding those citizens who didn’t do their military service, and the players who want to travel from Korea to China will find many visa problems. This rule reads:
“Korean males who have not yet performed military service may be restricted from leaving the country. Those over the age of 25 who have not served in the army must obtain permission from the Korea Military Manpower Administration to leave the country. For example, if a male has been classified to perform military service of grades 1-4 and has not yet performed the service, he can only study abroad as a graduate student and must be between the age of 26 and 28; if he is travelling for a short period of time, he must be between the age of 27 and 28 and the duration of the trip must not exceed 1 year; if he is doing overseas training or research, he must be between the age of 27 and 28 and the duration of the trip must not exceed 2 years. Outbound travel is strictly regulated (and may be extended within certain limits).”
According to VPEsports sources, this is the visa problem that would have prevented SK Gaming jungler Kim “Trick” Gang-Yun from participating in this year’s World Championship in case his team had qualified.
Faker is still 24 years old, so he should not have any problem with this rule this year (in case T1 qualifies), and should be able to travel to China for the 2020 World Championship, but next year, when he turns 25 (on May 7th), since the World Championship will be celebrated again in China, he might not get the visa to travel to the country and, thus, won’t be able to play in the tournament.
It is true that Trick has not achieved what Faker has, but one never knows with the governments and military organizations, so hopefully, the “BTS and Faker” bill will be approved.