Former Chairman Jeon Byung-hun, a former South Korean congressman who served on the parliamentary Committee of Broadcasting and Communications, and three of his aides on the Korean Esports Association (KeSPA) have been detained on the grounds of bribery and money laundering as of November 7. Both the home of one aide and the KeSPA office were raided by police on allegations that KeSPA has received a large sum of payments from Lotte Homeshopping, South Korea’s largest department store chain.
It is suspected that Lotte Homeshopping had wanted to win Jeon’s favor to renew their broadcasting license as they had lost the right to broadcast their home shopping program last year after being found guilty of falsifying documents. Prosecutors are investigating the possibility that the KeSPA sponsorship Lotte has received may be part of a larger bribery plan.
KeSPA, founded by the South Korean government in 2000, was formed to manage the growing esports industry. It is also a member of the Korean Olympic Committee and the International Esports Federation. They oversee teams for Overwatch, League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Dota 2. Until 2016, they had teams for Starcraft II, but after being plagued by scandals of illegal match-fixing and gambling, its fourteen year run came to an end.
As the esports community gains more popularity, it is probable that more scandals will arise, similar to scandals and controversies in sports like baseball, cycling, and international football. It is known that The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) has a history of corruption and scandals, including racketeering and money laundering, and from what we know of KeSPA’s most recent scandals, it is evident that people have found new, unlawful ways to profit from esports. The number of incidents will only increase as consumer interest in esports grows.