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SK Telecom’s decadeslong support for T1 pays off

Nov. 20, 2023 - 15:10 By Song Jung-hyun

Members of SK Telecom's T1 raise a trophy after winning the 2023 League of Legends World Championship in Gwanghwamun, central Seoul, Sunday (Yonhap)

SK Telecom’s decadeslong involvement in Korean esports has once again reaped dividends -- at least in glory -- as its T1 won the 2023 League of Legends World Championship title for a fourth time Sunday, defeating Weibo Gaming of China.

The top telecom carrier in terms of membership launched T1 in 2004 when the nation’s esports industry was still in its nascent stage, as part of efforts to better engage with younger generations.

As LoL, the multiplayer online battle arena game, started gaining global popularity around 2012, the company reorganized the team by recruiting Lee Sang-hyeok, a talented player better known as Faker, a pivotal step to the team’s first championship in 2013.

SK Telecom's continued sponsorship led to consecutive victories for T1 in 2015 and 2016, propelling it as one of the strongest teams in LoL history.

Additionally, it adopted a system known as “T1 Rookies,” consisting of prospective players, to expand the talent base of T1. The three team members – Choi Woo-je, Moon Hyeon-joon, and Lee Min-hyung – who were instrumental in Sunday’s victory had emerged from the T1 Rookies feeder program.

SK Telecom, which has also maintained the presidency of the Korea e-Sports Association since 2005, also sponsors Korea’s national esports team, spurring the whole industry’s growth.

It produced renowned Starcraft players who spearheaded the esports boom early on, including "Terran Emperor" Lim Yo-hwan, Choi Yeon-sung and Jung Myung-hun, among others.

At the Hangzhou Asian Games this year, Korea did not drop a single game in its LoL gold medal campaign, with half of the players from T1.

“Going forward, we will continue to promote Korea’s esports industry in various ways, such as through the adoption of virtual reality/augmented reality games," said SK Telecom communications chief Kim Hee-sup.

"Recognizing its full potential, we will spare no efforts in supporting Korea's esports."

To commemorate T1's fourth victory, SK Telecom is launching a special event offering diverse prizes, including a travel ticket to the US headquarters of LoL developer Riot Games.