Kim "GimGoon" Han-saem recently made this post on Facebook:— Kevin Kim 🦆 (@KevinKimLoL) June 8, 2020
"I'm not going to the military next year. I'll be doing this for one more year, please stop asking me about this." pic.twitter.com/mqwrazPXUa
In a statement translated from his Facebook page, the FPX top laner confirmed he is “not going to the military next year” and requested that fans stop asking him about it.
Despite FPX signing former T1 and DRX superstar Kim “Khan” Dong-ha as a second top laner, FPX still found more success with GimGoon in the LPL regular season, garnering an impressive 74.1% win rate. Sadly for FPX, this couldn’t carry them to a Spring Split victory, where they dropped 3:0 to the eventual champions JDG.
GumGoon has confirmed that he is deferring his mandatory military service for another year. (Picture: Riot Games)
While GimGoon may be staying on for another year, there is still the looming deadline of military service for himself and other Korean nationals. South Korea mandates that all healthy males must enlist with the armed forces by the time they turn 28, with only very rare exceptions given to athletes and entertainers who perform to extraordinary levels - exceptions that are not on the table for esports players with their current absence from both the Olympics and Asian Games.
One only has to look to ADC-turned-jungler legend Go “Score” Dong-bin‘s moving retirement last year, or note Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok who has roughly three years before his own military service deadline, to feel saddened that international icons of the game will likely have their careers curtailed by conscription.
FPX Win Season 9 Worlds. (Picture: Riot Games)
This does provide insight into a growing discussion about professional esport stars, particularly those from Korea. What is the expected length of a professional player? And what hope is there for a player to return to professional play after an extended absence - be it mandated by military service, health concerns or otherwise?
Uzi affirmed in an interview with Chinese Network Television that he plans to return to LoL if his health improves, but the path back to the top after an extended absence is arduous, even for the greats. For the likes of Score, and the looming possible futures of GimGoon and Faker, the question of whether they can make that climb has yet to be answered.