Expats fight to compete in South Korean Pokemon tournament
Foreign enthusiasts of the game claim Pokemon Korea is breaking rules by singling them out and trying to discourage them from taking part
By Jon Dunbar
Pokemon trainers will come together this weekend for the Pokemon Spring Korean League, competing for prizes and a chance to play in the World Championships. But expats who compete in the card and Nintendo 3DS events are fighting for their right to play.
According to Rachel Stine, an American who has been playing Pokemon games for 20 years, Pokemon Korea has been attempting to prevent foreign players competing.
She said every competitor with a foreign-sounding name received an email from Pokemon Korea that said competitors must be Korean nationals and must use software from Nintendo Korea.
“Nintendo 3DS consoles work in Pokemon tournaments regardless of which country they’re region-locked to,” Stine said. “They work in tournaments regardless of which language the player uses.”
Pokemon Korea gave foreign players a consent form acknowledging the following:
“If you are not a Korean national, you are allowed to participate in this competition on condition that you will be given prizes except for the seed ticket of the main tournament of Pokemon World Championship 2018 Korea representative selection contest if you win the top prize.”
Stine told The Korea Times she has complained to Pokemon International, but it is yet to respond.
“Pokemon events are conducted according to the rules set by each country,” the email from Pokemon Korea said.
But Stine said international rules state competitive tournaments have no residency requirements. “We’re asking Pokemon Korea to follow the rules every other country on earth does. This is not a big ask. It’s not about winning or about going to the worlds. They hope we’ll give up and go away. We aren’t going away.”
Stine’s seven-member expat team will be at the tournament this weekend, joined by their supporters. At the winter tournament on Jan. 28, they reported facing difficulties entering the venue and competing, but ultimately succeeded.
“Make no mistake, Pokemon Korea is attempting to intimidate foreign players from competing,” Stine said.
Stine uploaded a petition on Change.org demanding Pokemon Korea repeal the foreigner ban and apologize to non-Korean players who were harassed by staff via email, by phone or at previous tournaments.
Pokemon Korea has refused to comment to The Korea Times.