A short story of a foreign fan’s visit to the home of Korean League of Legends.
Chapter 1: Interpark
The journey began back home, in my room, on my PC, trying my best to beat out Korean fans to tickets each day a 6am. Tickets for the LCK go on sale seven days before a match at 2pm KST, meaning if I had any chance of grabbing some I’d need to be ready bright and early for the moment the sale began.
My girlfriend and I were going to be in Seoul for the final week of the summer split, giving us a tasty four days of League to try our best to attend:
Thursday 15th August – SKT vs DWG / KT vs SB
Friday 16th August – GRF vs JAG / AF vs HLE
Saturday 17th August – KZ vs KT / SB vs SKT
Sunday 18th August – DWG vs GEN / HLE vs GRF
The main goal, as is likely the case for any visitors looking to catch a game, was to see SK Telecom. If you’re paying to visit another continent and are waking up at such unimaginable (for me at least) hours in the morning, you want to see the most prestigious team and the best player of all time. For anybody that is hoping to visit LoL Park and see SKT as I was, then good luck to you.
I’d heard of the fan culture in Korea and how players were often thought of as idols, which means that dedicated fans won’t wait around to secure tickets to see their favourite player. Knowing this, I’d prepared my Interpark login (ticket site used by Riot to sell LCK seats) in advance and was patiently refreshing at 5:59 awaiting the sale.
As soon as the clock struck 6 o’clock I was greeted with three options; SKT vs Damwon, KT vs SANDBOX or a day ticket to see both. In my naivety I jumped straight for the day ticket, I wasn’t going to get many chances to visit LoL Park after all and had many activities planned for other days during my trip.
After a few seconds of loading I was ready to select our seats, only to find that there were none. Literally zero. Upon refreshing the page a few would appear, however by the time I could select and confirm they were already gone. In a panic I headed for the single match option, SKT vs DWG. Yes I would only be able to see one match, but at least I’d get to see the mighty SK Telecom in a series against another top Korean team.
What followed was another disappointment as these tickets had gone too, and no amount of refreshing was giving me any greater chance of sneaking some seats. I was then perhaps even more surprised to find that KT vs SANDBOX had also sold out in a matter of minutes, a team struggling at the bottom of the league (albeit a historically strong team) against another that was still new to this level and would’ve seemingly not had the largest fanbase.
At this point I knew I had very little chance of seeing SKT play in the flesh, though I still held some hope to snag Saturday tickets. Nevertheless I was up once again Friday morning for round two, hoping to grab a day ticket for Griffin vs Jin Air and Afreeca vs Hanwha Life.
This is when the naivety had kicked in once again, and I was somehow still surprised to find the day tickets sell out in an instant and found myself scrambling to load the single match tickets. Luckily my partner came to the rescue, taking pity in my groggy attempts to get tickets by calmly loading the site on her phone while I hunched over my keyboard. Griffin vs Jin Air had seats available, and securable.
We took the tickets as soon as we could, knowing that we were still in store for a meaningful series with teams fighting at opposite ends of the table. At this stage, I still had hope that we could see SKT and that we could try again the next day, either attending LoL Park twice or selling our GRF vs JAG tickets if we could see SKT.
By Saturday morning that hope was diminished once and for all. Once again all SKT tickets were gone by the time the site would even load, and at this time I came accept that it wasn’t meant to be.
In reality, it’s likely not physically possible for somebody to beat local Koreans to such sought after tickets from the other side of the world. With Interpark being a Korean site (with it’s servers presumably in Korea) loading times alone seem to be the main hurdle preventing a foreigner from getting a seat, as all were consistently gone by the time I reached seat selection.
By Sunday I was happy with the match that we were going to see, and no way was I going to wake up at 5:45 on both Saturday and Sunday that weekend.
Chapter 2: Cheongjin-dong
Fast-forward to 15th August where we were already a few days into our trip, and our visit to LoL Park had finally come along.
For our stay in Seoul we opted for a hotel in Heohyeon-dong, a neighbourhood closely situated between Seoul Station and Myeongdong (a famous retail area). This was ideal for an activity packed trip as we were within walking distance of many of the city’s landmarks while also having great transport connections from both Seoul and Myeongdong stations. This also meant that we were not too far away from Cheongjin-dong, the neighbourhood housing the LCK’s LoL Park.
As the series was not to start until 5pm, we chose to coincide the day with a visit to the Running Man Thematic Experience Center. For those unaware, Running Man is a popular game-show on Korean television where the hosts participate in countless fun challenges, and the Experience Center offered visitors a chance to participate in similar challenges along with an automated points system to find who was best at the end of play.
Though mostly a place for kid’s birthday parties, it was still an enjoyable experience and one that we would recommend for anyone looking to kill a couple of hours before heading to LoL Park, and one that is unmissable for fans of the show.
A short walk down the street then led us to another one of thousands of skyscrapers in the city, however this was the only one that housed the top League of Legends teams from the country (at least since Riot relinquished OGN of its duties running the league).
After grabbing some snacks from the GS25 convenience store at the bottom of the building and having to ask staff for directions to the correct elevator, we made our way up to the third floor to get our first glimpse at the arena.
Chapter 3: the Tour
Upon arriving in LoL Park we were immediately greeted by walls covered with LCK legends; Faker, Mata, Pray to name a few. What better way to convey the league’s legacy than showing fans their heroes as soon as the elevator doors open?
A turn to the right led to an open area, featuring Gorillaz inspired street League champion statues, a meet and great area with a hand-drawn mural backdrop as well as team-run zones to pick up swag and grab a fan sign.
We moved on before staying too long to make sure we got to check out the other offerings, firstly taking a look at Bilgewater Cafe. Other than stained glass windows depicting boardwalk scenes and wooden furnishings around the cafe, there honestly wasn’t a huge amount of a nautical theme and somebody unfamiliar with the League of Legends lore could easily miss this link.
Nevertheless, prices were more than reasonable compared to food and drink at traditional sporting events in the Western world and a wide selection was available. We would later come back for some chicken tenders (or chicken strips as my fellow Britons will know) and chilli fries, the latter of which would unfortunately find its way to my shirt not long after.
Just beyond Bilgewater Cafe was the official Riot merchandise store, though we made the wise decision not to take a look before the match for fear of later needing to barge our way to our seats with mountains of bags like some rabid shopaholics.
Next, we made our way round to the LoL Park PC bang, Riot’s take on the classic Korean PC cafe where players could meet up to grind solo queue side-by-side.
Though we could not play due to the lack of Korean ID needed to make an account on the KR server, this didn’t stop us from being incredibly jealous of the dozens of those who were fiercely competing in their respective climbs hoping to one day reach their idols at the stage in the other side of the building.
Prices were slightly higher than the general $1 per hour which is common among regular PC bangs throughout the city, however the setting more than makes up for a few extra dollars as well as the convenience of being able to play minutes before of after watching the pros on stage.
To round things off we headed to the team display where jersey’s for each organisation were shown off, including 3D printed figurines of each and every player in the league. Though the likeness of some players was questionable, the display itself looked like something straight out of a hall of fame and only played further into the idea of competitors holding idol status, one earned by their hard work and determination to reach peak performance levels.
Chapter 4: 0-18
After scribbling our signs and picking up our English broadcast radio, we finally headed into the arena. We only entered a few minutes ahead of the match’s scheduled start time while busy trying to create art worthy of the broadcast, though arriving at this time meant that the atmosphere was already electric and felt like a gladiator walking into the Colosseum. Luckily for us, however, we weren’t about to be eaten by lions – that was Jin Air’s job.
Griffin came into the series joint top of the LCK and were hoping to cement their 1st place seeding for playoffs, while Jin Air Green wings were looking to end an abysmal 0-17 run in what was their last attempt at preventing an unwanted record of the worst split in LCK history (a record that they held with 1 win and 17 losses from Spring of this season).
Game one went exactly as expected, a heavy win for Griffin in which Tarzan’s Olaf domination was reminiscent of a real viking tearing down his foes. Viper was able to lock in a comfort pick in Ezreal, and effortlessly displayed just how comfortable he is on the champion, while Chovy’s long range Jayce shock blasts were often an unwelcome
shock surprise for JAG recipients.
Jin Air managed to hold out for 29 minutes, eventually falling to Griffins siege and conceding the match in which they only managed three kills as a team.
The English speaking casting duo on the day was Australian pair PapaSmithy and Atlus, both of whom were on top form in what would prove to be among their final casts together with the former relinquishing his role to take up a general manager position for LCS side 100 Thieves next season.
As soon as game one ended, and not wanting to risk a missed opportunity, I made my way straight to the casters desk, where both kindly stopped for a picture. I joked to PapaSmithy about how I almost missed the chance to meet him as he took a week away from Korea to appear as a guest caster for the LEC the previous week, however little did I know that I was potentially catching him at one of his final casts ever.
During the break we were also lucky to be treated to an impromptu LCK podcast as issues with the tournament server offered a lengthy delay. Broadcast time was spent scouring the audience for fan signs, and though ours was not directly shown we did manage to steal somebody else’s thunder with an EU meme import.
Game two was another dominant victory for Griffin to conclude the series and marked Jin Air as unwanted 0-18 record holders. This time it was top-laner Doran who stole the show with a devastating Mordekaiser performance while Viper once again thrived on a comfort pick; on this occasion his top played champion from Summer, Kai’Sa.
Chapter 5: ₩70,600
Once the games had ended we tried our luck at grabbing a picture with one or two of Griffin’s players, however they unfortunately only stepped into the meet and greet area for a quick thanking of fans before heading off.
We spent the remainder of our experience back at the merch store to ‘have a look’ at what was on offer and found a host of Riot Korea exclusives that were not on sale through the official site. We also found that prices of items that were available in Europe happened to be cheaper here, and when speaking to the employee learned that some had only a handful left in Korea. So really we had no choice but to buy…
A bagful of items later and we’d spent a just over ₩70,000 (roughly $58/£47/€53):
|Blitzcrank anime cap||30,000||24.94||20.28||22.79|
|Fizz shopping bag||100||0.08||0.07||0.08|
While shopping we got talking to the store employee, who started up a conversation asking where we were from, where in Seoul we were visiting, which games were we seeing etc. He kindly let us know which items were Korea exclusives and which were almost sold out (the poro cushion was one of only two left on sale in the country!) while also chatting about the game and which teams/leagues we followed.
When talking about the match we’d watched we explained how difficult it was to secure LCK tickets as a foreigner and how competitive the ticket sales were, at which point he asked how long we had left of our trip and whether we’d be interested in seeing more games.
He went on to describe how Hanwha Life had reserved seats for all of their games through the split for player’s families coming to visit, however towards the end of the split they were rarely being used. As he heard how hard we struggled for tickets, he had our names put at the top of the list to get the seats if the families did leave them vacant again. We simply had to go to LoL Park on the day of their match with some time to spare to confirm we were spectating.
Though we now regret not asking for his name in order to put in official praise for his generosity, we did offer our thanks for such a kind gesture and finally went on our way, Fizz bag in tow.
When the Hanwha Life vs Gen.G matchday rolled around we ultimately made the difficult decision not to go as we looked to fulfil all actives we’d planned for our trip in the short time we had there. Our two week stay was action packed and could’ve easily been longer, meaning we unfortunately couldn’t sacrifice an extra day to make a return to LoL Park.
We made the decision with no regrets, more than happy with the time we did spend at the home of Korean League of Legends which was in no small part due to the unexpected act of kindness. For anybody else that does visit in future, we highly recommend having a chat at the merchandise shop to make your time there that much more enjoyable!
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Article by Lee ‘Couple Sodi Pops’ Jones