Protecting pro gamers in South Korea: Q&A with KeSPA

The Korea e-Sports Association (KeSPA) is a governing body that manages South Korean esports. Provided by KeSPA

On September 5th, the Korea e-Sports Association announced its signing of an MOU (memorandum of understanding) with Legacy Pro Law, a law firm based in Koreatown, Los Angeles that mainly deals with copyright, entertainment and licensing. According to KeSPA's official English press release, Legacy Pro Law would "provide legal advisory to e-Sports players who need legal advice on visa, tax, contracts, etc. among the players of KeSPA's official e-Sports titles." [The Korean version of the same press release, however, specified that only players in registered "professional" titles -- i.e., League of Legends and FIFA Online 3 -- would receive such benefits.]

While the news was received with interest by fans of South Korean esports, a number of questions were raised regarding the precise context and details. To learn more about the memorandum, ESPN sat down briefly with representatives from KeSPA to discuss the MOU. [This interview has been translated and edited for clarity.]

Young Jae Jeon: Why was this MOU sought out?

KeSPA: Around the beginning of this year, we started looking for a legal partner well versed in international law. That was because some players were coming to us for help after having signed unfair or problematic contracts with foreign teams, and the ways we could help them were very limited. KeSPA doesn't have any legal authority to cancel contracts after they are finalized, and we didn't have enough in-house expertise in international law to provide all the help they needed. So we felt the need to acquire a legal partner who could specifically advise players when dealing with foreign entities.

What kind of help was provided previously?

KeSPA: Most players handled contractual affairs on their own, through their team, or through an agent. Things worked out well for many of those players, but some ended up in less than ideal situations, and there wasn't that much we could do retroactively. We already had been lecturing players regularly about how carefully they should approach contracts, but since we now can provide legitimate legal advice, we're hoping to be more proactive in helping players avoid bad deals. The players will be told that they will have access to these kinds of services, and that they should use them before signing anything.

Why was Legacy Pro Law chosen over other firms, some of which specialize in esports?

KeSPA: We were looking for a bilingual law firm experienced in working with South Korean clients -- that was the most important factor -- and Legacy Pro Law fit that bill. While Legacy Pro Law doesn't have esports-specific expertise, they have plenty in similar fields.

KeSPA also recently signed an MOU with Woori Bank to provide players with financial management and consulting services. Are these partnerships part of a greater synchronized initiative?

KeSPA: We didn't coordinate the two pieces of news or anything, but we are planning to continuously increase the number of benefits we can provide to the players. These two deals were separately worked on for a long time. We regularly ask players what kind of assistance they would like to receive from KeSPA, and the two services have been at the top of the list for quite a while.

How did players and teams react to this news?

KeSPA: We didn't really get to hear from them directly yet -- it's not offseason yet, so no one is really talking that much about contractual things. And the exact kind of counsel players will receive should be established over time once we start handling specific cases. Our annual general education program [set for September 21nd] is coming up soon, though, so we are expecting to get a lot of feedback from then onwards. At the moment, these services are only open to professional players who sign up for them, but we will gradually expand the scope to amateur players as well. We heard that some players in the past, unfortunately, have worked with fraudulent agents with insufficient legal knowledge. We seek to minimize this danger.