The hottest sports action in Korea is computerized

Some of the hottest sporting action this summer is taking place on computer screens. Crowds of thousands lined the beaches in Busan and Seoul’s Olympic Park recently for separate computer gaming events.
E-sports is more than a kid’s game ― it is a 100 billion won ($107 million) market in Korea, and it nearly doubles in size every year.
At Olympic Park in southern Seoul, the Seoul International e-Sports Festival ended a four-day event yesterday amid game character fashion shows, concerts and other events.
The festival also included the finals of a 256-team “StarCraft” single-elimination tournament offering a cash prize of 20 million won. The winner of a single-player “WarCraft 3” competition got $20,000. About 50 gamers from numerous countries, including China, Poland and Sweden, participated.
Although many of the participants were professional Korean gamers, international teams came out strong in the shooting game “Counter-Strike.”

In Seoul, gamers compete this past weekend. Provided by the organizations

The Seoul City government said next year it expects some 200,000 people for the event; the entire event was broadcast live on the Internet video portal GomTV.
Also part of the e-sports festival, the 2007 Korea Pump Festival drew huge crowds of people who wanted to see contestants dance.
“Pump” is a Korean-developed game similar to “Dance Dance Revolution,” where players have to step on pads on the floor as directed by arrows that appear on the screen. At yet another venue, digital avatars danced away in a competition for the game “Audition,” where cyber figures do the actual bodywork.
The Seoul festivities were just one of the many summer computer game festivals going on nationwide this summer.
On Aug. 4, Busan’s Gwangalli beach was packed with people watching the finals of the Shinhan Pro League, one of the biggest StarCraft tournaments in Korea.
The event attracts tens of thousands of spectators each year.
Prior to Busan, e-sports festivals also took place in the city of Daegu, in the mountainous region of Gangwon and at the Gyeongpo Beach in Gangneung City in Gangwon ― all drawing big crowds.
“I heard that e-sports will be a pilot category for the Beijing Olympics,” said Ma Jae-yoon, a top Korean StarCraft player. “It motivates me to play harder.”

By Wohn Dong-hee
Staff Writer for JoongAng Daily

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