The Korean Esports Association is being accused of exploiting pro players after Korean media outlet Naver reportedly published a copy of KeSPA’s standard contract.
According to the translation provided by Reddit user u/bddpsxj12, it’s a “slavery contract” with a number of issues involving players’ career autonomy and a lack of direct payment of tournament winnings to players. The translator states the contract also lacks any real protections for players and leaves them beholden to their organization on almost every front.
The discussion of KeSPA’s contracts comes shortly after multiple scandals at Griffin resulted in Riot Games threatening to remove the team from the LCK, South Korea’s top League of Legends league. This stems from reports of improper contractual terms and unfair player treatment. Griffin has been forced to heavily change its leadership as a result.
The Redditor states that KeSPA’s contracts may actually be worse. u/bddpsxj12’s translations show players under the KeSPA contract have no say in their transfers and aren’t allowed to re-sign with teams they’ve been transferred to.
More concerning, players aren’t entitled to any earnings they make from tournaments or brand partnerships. While it’s standard for organizations that field teams to take a percentage of tournament winnings, KeSPA’s contracts state that winnings should be paid to the organization, which then distributes the money at its discretion.
Players also must keep their private lives away from the media and if any information is exposed, they must consult with their organization before addressing it in any way.
At least three LCK teams are reportedly using these contracts, including storied organizations T1 and KT Rolster. This potential problem extends well outside League of Legends, with Korean organizations in PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Overwatch also using these contracts.
Adding fuel to this fire has been a number of top players and coaches leaving the LCK behind. Though Korea has long been the most talent-rich LoL region in the world, more and more players have been heading to China and North America of late.
Responses to this report from both KeSPA and organizations are likely coming soon, so expect more news on this in the near future.