Olivia R. November 18, 2019
An investigation on allegations that Seo "Kanavi" Jin-hyeok was "forcefully signed" to a Chinese esports organization will result in the release of a final report in the next few days.
The LCK Operation Committee began to investigate the situation in October after it came to light that League of Legends pro Kanavi was forced to sign a long-term contract with JDG by his former team, Griffin.
Considered a minor in Korea, Kanavi was not provided legal aid despite being contracted to an agency, bringing his contract to the League community's attention.
Griffin's former Head Coach Kim "cvMax" Dae-ho had revealed on stream that the team had "forced" Kanavi to sign a long-term contract when he was transferred to JDG. This would result in a larger transfer fee for Griffin, which cvMax stated was around $700,000.
On the same stream, cvMax accused Griffin's former director, Cho Gyu-nam, of "threatening" Kanavi with "player tampering" accusations. This results from a player failing to report when another team contacts them with an offer to join their time while they're already signed, which would lead to Riot Games potentially handing out penalties to the player.
Kanavi had been on vacation in Korea for a week after the Spring Split. While on loan, JDG suggested a complete transfer, and Kanavi said he'd think about it, according to cvMax.
“With this, Cho accused Kanavi of tampering and told him that Cho would be trying to solve this situation properly. Soon after, Cho told Kanavi that he has to go to JDG and that he has to pick from a three-year or five-year contract," cvMax said.
Kanavi allegedly wanted a one-year contract, but he wasn't given that option.
LCK Operation Committee investigates Griffin claims
By the end of October, the LCK Operation Committee released an interim report which stated that Kanavi and JDG had not violated the player tampering rules, but that Griffin had loaned out the minor to JDG under an "unfair contract." They also noted that Griffin had "attempted to fully transfer Kanavi under an unreasonable long-term contract," according to Iven Global.
During this entire process, Kanavi was signed to esports agency Kea & Partners. It was said that they had been involved in preparing the transfer agreement, which pointed to them being aware of the "unfair" situation. Even so, the agency did not offer legal counseling and Griffin was able to force Kanavi to sign the contract. This could have been due to the fact that Kea & Partners represents both Kanavi and Griffin.
“It’s true that [we] reviewed documents on Kanavi’s loan and the transfer agreement. However, unless the player requests legal aid, the agency cannot act preemptively, and Kanavi did not reach out for help," the agency stated.
Korean congressman Ha Tae-kyung even spoke up about the situation. He stated that Kanavi was a minor, meaning Griffin should have contacted the agency to discuss the contract's details directly.
"Kanavi was pretty much dragged around in a scripted scenario, and in order to prevent such a backward contract system to settle in place, the government needs to step in for a proper investigation and countermeasures," he said of the situation.
A final report is expected within the next few days.