First published in JoongAng Daily (April 4, 2007)
Korea’s Air Force is now going to have an entirely new unit, composed of people who are experts at playing computer games.
The Air Force insisted that its plans were not a joke when it said on Sunday that it would create its first professional e-sports team. By coincidence, the announcement was made on April Fool’s Day. Yesterday, the official launch ceremony for the e-sports team took place at the Air Force Headquarters.
This is the first professional gaming team to be created within the Korean military. The air force gaming team had previously participated in a couple of public events, but not as a professional team.
There are many different categories for e-sports, but the Air Force unit will mainly focus on StarCraft. Developed by the American company Blizzard, StarCraft is a war game in which players acquire resources, such as minerals and gas, that are required to make progress.
The name of the team is ACE, short for Airforce Challenge E-sports, and is made up of eight members. They include StarCraft legend Lim Yo-hwan, Kang Do-kyung, Seong Hak-seung, Choi In-gyu and Cho Hyung-geun.
The young men are not new to computer games. They all had experience with professional gaming teams before they began their two-year mandatory service. Lim and Seong were teammates on SK Telecom’s pro-gaming team, T1.
All team members joined the Air Force to focus on computer-related activities, not flying. Until now, they tested war simulation games and helped organize StarCraft tournaments as a form of entertainment for the soldiers.
ACE’s schedule begins immediately, starting with the 2007 season Pro League championship, which is hosted by the state-run Korea eSports Association.
The professional gaming team Pantech EX will also be participating in the Pro League championship this year, with the help of special funding from the Korea eSports Association. This group, which was funded by the cellular phone manufacturer Pantech, was scrapped by the company on the last day of March because the firm is undergoing financial difficulties.
The association, however, came to the rescue after a series of emergency meetings. The association announced that it will take the initiative in searching for a company that will take over Pantech EX.