Report: Korean pros playing without work visas in China, which makes it almost impossible to get their money home

There is a mounting concern for the financial safety of Korean League of Legends professionals in China as it has been revealed that there isn’t a legally clear and transparent way for the pros to move their earnings back to Korea.

According to a report from Korean news outlet Daily eSports, many Korean players in China are playing without working visas, called Z visas. It’s not possible in China for individuals to make a bank account unless they are staying under a Z visa. If a player were to receive payment from their team into a Korean bank account, they would have to prove they made the money through legitimate employment, a process that is near impossible for those without a proper Z visa. The step could be skipped if the team sent the payment to the player’s Korean bank account after paying the income tax for the player, but that’s not a compelling option for the team.

Applying for a Z visa is also a very touchy subject for the teams, because one of the requirements for the employer is to prove that they are a stable enterprise. A coaching staff member for a Chinese team told Daily eSports that “many teams are owned not by corporations, but individuals, and in some cases multiple sponsors are owners of a single team, which makes the process of officially getting Z visas difficult.” The staff member continued that he also “asked multiple times for Z visas,” but was told that it was difficult to prove that a team is a business.

The lack of a proper working visa while playing on a Chinese roster can also prove to be a risky venture for the players. In the event of a Chinese team not honoring the contract or denying it even hired the Korean player, the player then has no course to pursue legal action. With a Z visa, the Chinese government would acknowledge the employment status and thus force the team to follow through with its contract, but without one, there is little a player could do.

The number of Korean players that play in the League of Legends Pro League has grown since Choi “Insec” In-Seok and Yoon “Zero” Kyung-Sup moved to Star Horn Royal club in 2014. Now there are more than 60 Korean players in the LPL and the League of Legends Secondary Pro League.

It’s unclear how Korean players manage to even play in China without Z visas, but it’s worth comparing to other regions’ history of international players. Until a crackdown earlier this year that caused many players in North America and Europe to miss time or leave their teams entirely, it was widely believed players used tourist visas to compete if they couldn’t acquire a P1 work visa. The Daily Esports report speculated that might be the case in China.

The Daily eSports report included rumors of players trying outrageous antics to transport money back to Korea that were not based in fact. It is worth wondering, however, just how the players are able to retain their earnings.

Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games.

Slingshot staff writer and Korean League of Legends expert who also owns a Pikachu-themed iPhone case. You can reach him at Andrew@slingshotesports.com

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