Korean Phenomenon: An Esports and Entertainment Media Synthesis

Dec 03 2020 4 min read

Korean Phenomenon: An Esports and Entertainment Media Synthesis

K-pop has taken over the world. This is not a joke or the lead-up for a cynical punchline — it’s a statement of fact. The tracks from the groups such as BTS, Blackpink, and TWICE are at the top of the charts in many countries, even in Russia.

League of Legends has also taken over the world — the esports world. The most played and viewed game is also the top one in Korea.

It would be peculiar if these two blooming industries did not cross sooner or later. One of the first points of contact was the HOT6iX Champions Spring 2014 final between KT Rolster Arrows and Samsung Blue in Busan, where the popular group Dal☆Shabet performed before the match.

Korea is considered the "Mecca" of esports for a reason. It's not just that teams from this country often win in various disciplines. Competitive games have long become a cultural layer, a lifestyle to be proud of. In Seoul, Busan, Incheon, you can find themed cafes, restaurants, even museums. Being a gamer is not a stigma but a valid career path or hobby. Even local celebrities are attracted to the esports games with show matches like this one between Super Junior and EXO members...

...or the whole Olympic-style Gamedolympic event in League of Legends, PUBG, and Tekken 7, which was attended by Block B, APRIL, FTISLAND, NCT, B1A4, gugudan, ASTRO, DIA, 9MUSES, SONAMOO, U-KISS, LABOUM, fromis_9, SF9, NC.A, LipBubble, ONF, TRCNG, MYTEEN, HALO, The Boyz, MXM, HOTSHOT, IN2IT, RAINZ, NTB, LAU, KNK, Team X, DreamCatcher, and PEACE.

Sadly, the main Korean esports channel and host of most collaborations and streams, OGN, is shutting down at the end of the year.

This, however, does not mean that the symbiosis of K-pop and LoL will disappear. Rather, on the contrary, it can become more organic, where the parties make contact themselves, and not under someone else's contract. An excellent example of this is Episode 114 of Run BTS by the mega-popular group BTS, where the members met up with the T1 League of Legends players, participated in minigames and had a great time.

T1 recently posted the behind the scenes footage of the event.

It is noteworthy that the BTS members not only knew about T1 and Faker, but expressed their active support and called the team “BTS of the esports world”, which is not too far from the truth. Several members of the group even admitted to having played League of Legends since Season 2!

Riot Games studio did not stand aside either. Everyone remembers the excitement caused by the K/DA — POP/STARS music video. Not only is it made in the style (both visual and musical) of K-pop, but it was created with the active help and participation of the (G)I-DLE members Soyeon and Miyeon.

A few days ago, the video exceeded 400 million views — an unprecedented success. For Worlds 2020 this year, the authors decided to do the same, only more, and released a whole five-track EP — All Out. Seoyeon and Miyeon returned to their roles again on two songs, and another was created with the help of the super-popular group TWICE.

The K/DA project has become phenomenally popular. So much so that everyone began to cosplay the characters. Even popular K-pop performers. For example, Berry Good's Johyun, who appeared as Ahri at the aforementioned Gamedolympic event.

Johyun Cat Ears
Johyun Ahri
Johyun heart

Esports players in Korea are huge stars as well, like the musical performers, and the main superstar among them is Lee "Faker" Sang-heyok. He is almost the main face of the Korean telecommunications company SK Telecom. This year he recorded an ad with the Tottenham footballer Son Heung-min…

...helped promote League of Legends: Wild Rift...

...but the LoL temple ad back from season four still remains as his most popular.

T1 fans felt that the entire squad was overly busy with collaborations and filming this season, and therefore the results in the league suffered a lot. They even hired a truck to remind the organization's management not to play with the fans' feelings.

Banner truck

Korea is a land of contrasts. They love their idols, and are glad to see them in absolutely any role. Therefore, collaborations between the esports and K-pop industries are not something out of the ordinary, but rather a pattern. But love in Korea is not "in spite of", but "for", and the one who brought joy the day before may deserve ire a day later. This is the phenomenon of the Korean entertainment industry.


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