News 20 October 2015

South Korea e-gamers accused of match-fixing

The Korea e-Sports Association (KeSPA) has opened a disciplinary hearing following allegations of match-fixing and illegal betting in a number of StarCraft II matches earlier this year. StarCraft II is a military sci-fi video game which is played professionally around the world, and is extremely popular in South Korea. Leagues of professional ‘e-gamers’ compete in televised tournaments and receive coaching and large amounts of sponsorship, and compete for prize-pools reportedly worth up to US$250,000.

KeSPA, the South Korean body established to manage e-sports in the country, issued a statement on Monday saying that they had opened a disciplinary hearing and ‘planned to ban’ the head coach of the Prime team, Park Wae-Silk, and the professional e-gamer Choi Byeong-Heon ‘for life and permanently suspend their licenses.’ Both Wae-Silk and Byeong-Heon have also been arrested and incarcerated by public prosecutors, who are also holding an investigation into the match-fixing allegations.

In its statement, written in Korean, KeSPA’s Director Cho Man Soo said that the association had ‘worked alongside the rest of the industry to fight against the illegal betting that has continued to threaten the foundation of e-Sports.’ Man Soo continued that it was ‘extremely regrettable’ that another incident had occurred; in 2010 police in South Korea investigated allegations of match fixing which, according to the StarCraft community site Team Liquid, resulted in 11 players being ‘banned from the progaming scene permanently.’

According to Team Liquid, the Changwon Regional Prosecutor’s office announced the arrest of twelve individuals in connection with match-fixing and illegal betting in StarCraft II. Those charged included both Park Wae-Silk, whose gaming alias is ‘Gerrard’ and Choi Byeong-Heon (‘YoDa’) as well as another professional e-gamer, Choi Jong-Hyuk (‘BBoongBboon’).

The website said that brokers and ‘financial backers’ had also been arrested, including a former programmer and e-sports journalist. Team Liquid claim that a ‘total of five professional StarCraft 2 matches were found to have been fixed’, with the matches taking place between January and June 2015. ‘YoDa’ is believed to have played in four fixed matches, while ‘BBoongBBoong’ in just one.

KeSPA said that it would ‘actively cooperate in the investigation’ and that if any others were found to be involved in the case, they would be banned for life regardless of the result of a trial.’ According to the association, those players involved could also ‘be subject to measures under civil and/or criminal law should they be involved in illegal betting.’ KeSPA further announced that, depending on the circumstances, it would ‘sue for damages and/or file charges on grounds of obstruction.’

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