South Korea is often considered the birthplace of esports as we know it today. This Asian nation was among the first countries to accept competitive gaming as a sport in its own right. In 2000, the World Cyber Game Challenge was sponsored by South Korea’s Ministry of Culture. Although a far cry from the global events we know and love today, this event bore all the hallmarks of a true esports tournament. It’s no surprise that South Korea has produced some of the finest esports players of all time. Below, we spotlight eight of the best.
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Nobody could have anticipated that Jang “Ghost” Yong-jun would become one of Korea’s standout esports athletes. However, despite a shaking beginning in 2018, he made a name for himself the following year, earning the nickname he’s now synonymous with. He’s been a staple of DWG KIA for several years, serving in a bot laner role when the roster emerged as winners at the 2020 World Championship.
Lee “Gumayusi” Min-hyeong is another celebrated LoL player from South Korea. Just like Ghost, Gumayusi is one of the best bot lakers around. Although he’s been part of the T1 roster for some time, Gumayusi has found himself relegated to the subs bench more often than not. Nonetheless, he’s continued to impress behind the scenes. Keep an eye out for him during the LCK schedule Spring 2023.
Kim “Khan” Dong-ha has jumped ship more than once over the past few years. He’s played for the likes of DWG KIA, FunPlus Phoenix, and T1. What makes Khan so special? This top laner is one of the most versatile players around, regularly switching between champions like Jayce and Lucian. He’s walked away with several MVP titles over the years, with his most recent prize being dished out at the LCK Spring Final in 2021.
He’s another first-rate top laner from the T1 lineup. Kim “Canna” Chang-dong is a relative newcomer, only really making a name for himself in 2020. However, his debut year was a big one. He’s truly a force to be reckoned with, often unleashing hell on the enemy without the need for backup from his teammates. He’s only amassed a relatively small fortune so far, but this legend in the making is likely to emerge as one of South Korea’s finest esports stars of all time.
As with Canna, Jeong “Chovy” Ji-hoon is a fairly new addition to the South Korean esports scene. He caused something of a stir playing for Griffin, but has only really come into his own since joining the Gen.G roster. This mid laner might be young, but he’s definitely one to watch.
Now we move on to the first jungler in this list. Mun “Oner” Heyon-jun is one of the finest players ever to grace the ranks of the T1 lineup. He regularly deploys champions like Talon on the battlefield. You only need to look at his performance during the 2021 World Championship to see he’s one of the finest South Korean esports players currently in operation. He’s still fairly young, so hasn’t secured any first-place finishes just yet. However, expect that to change as he continues to forge a career as one of Asia’s best LoL players.
Here’s another star of the Gen.G roster. Park “Ruler” Jae-hyuk is a fantastic bot laner, even if his playing style and general behavior leave a lot to be desired. It’s unusual to see controversial players come out of Asia, but Ruler bucks the trend. Don’t let his fiery temperament distract from his playing ability, however. Ruler has amassed a small fortune in prize money during a relatively short playing career. If he continues to play for just a few more years, he’s almost certain to secure a spot as an esports legend.
This list wouldn’t be complete without placing Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok in the top spot. Faker has been playing professionally since 2013 and he’s become synonymous with League of Legends internationally, not just in his native South Korea. He’s remained a firm fixture of T1 since entering the professional field and secured no less than three World champion titles during his career. He’s also amassed a huge collection of individual awards, including three Korea Esports Hall of Fame titles.