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StarCraft has an active professional competition circuit, particularly in South Korea. The two major game channels in South Korea, Ongamenet and MBCGame, each run a Starleague, viewed by millions of fans. Starting in about 2002, pro-gamers started to become organized into teams, sponsored by large South Korean companies like SK Telecom and KTF. These organized teams are not unlike teams from professional sports such as football, basketball, etc. StarCraft is also the most popular computer game competition during the annual World Cyber Games thanks to its Korean fanbase, and it is overall one of the world's largest computer and video game competition in terms of prize money, global coverage and participants. 
KeSPA Player Rankings
KeSPA stands for Korean e-Sports Players Association and publishes a monthly calculation of rankings based on a point scale. It is a rolling system based on the past 12 months of performance in both major and minor events, awarding points based on winning percentage, finish, and prize money. It is further scaled based on the relative importance of the event. Current as of May 2009.
Professional StarCraft players
- Lim Yo-Hwan (SlayerS `BoxeR`) (Terran)
- Known as the "Terran Emperor", Boxer is the most popular Starcraft player in Korea due to his highly creative play. He is also probably the most successful - he's the only Starcraft player having won the World Cyber Games (WCG) twice and he has also won the OnGameNet Starleague (OSL) twice (only five players have achieved that). He holds the record for being number 1 in KeSPA's rankings for 17 consecutive months. Boxer made a comeback in 2005, making the finals of the So1 OSL, but had to retire from professional gaming to join the Korean military service. His last professional match was on 3 October 2006, at Superfight versus Hong Jin-Ho, aka [NC]...YellOw, which he won 3-2. His total record of televised matches is 500 wins and 338 losses. Currently, Boxer is now in the Korean Air Force progaming team.
- Hong Jin-Ho ([NC]...YellOw) (Zerg)
- The most successful Zerg player in the past, Yellow, the "Storm Zerg", is known for his aggressive and harass-style play, and for his rivalry with Boxer (who has never lost to him in a Starleague final). He also seems to suffer from a certain degree of angst due to continued strong showings (6 second place finishes at major events) combined with failure to win one of the major leagues. He was the 2nd place finisher to many top players' first events. Yellow finally won the Snicker's All-Star league vs. Nada in 2005 (in fact, Yellow is noted for his success in such special events, having won MBC Winner's Championship and the OGN King of Kings tournament) and won the first BlizzCon invitational tournament. Yellow once again suffered defeat at the hands of eventual champion Casy in the semi-finals of the Shinhan 1 OSL in 2005, but claimed 3rd place. However, due to a poor performance in the following OSL, YellOw is currently ranked 27th in the February KeSPA rankings.
- Guillaume Patry (X'Ds-Grrrr...) (Protoss)
- Canadian player who was easily the number one player in the world for some time in the era before professional gaming fully took off in Korea, and played successfully in Korea for some time (including winning an OSL) before fading from the scene as new players surpassed his skill. Some credit him with catalyzing the pro-gaming scene and making it mainstream. Patry finished 3rd in WCG 2003. 
- Bertrand Grospellier (ElkY) (Terran)
- Elky is the only professional gamer from the nation of France to have competed in the Korean Starcraft leagues. Grospellier was one of the top ranked StarCraft players in the world; he placed second in the World Cyber Games in 2001. He has since stopped playing StarCraft professionally, and is now active in professional poker leagues.
- Kim Dong-Soo (Garimto) (Protoss)
- One of only five players to win the OSL twice, Garimto aka "The Zealot" was notable for succeeding even during Boxer's height of dominance. He also innovated heavily with Protoss build-orders, making frequent use of "hidden" tech buildings and other tricks. Garimto had to quit SC in order to do his Korean military service, but now regularly acts as a commentator for games. In his commentary he is known for criticizing current Protoss players for playing sloppily and hence not achieving the potential of the race. Garimto completed his military service on December 21st, 2006 and rejoined the pro-gaming scene. Garimto played what will most likely be his last professional match on October 24th, 2007. He has since retired and become a commentator for the professional leagues.
- Park Jung-Suk ([Oops]Reach) (Protoss)
- Reach, the "Hero of Protoss" is the Protoss player who has been most consistent in the long term, beating Boxer in an OSL final near the height of his dominance, and generally placing well in tournaments. As his nickname suggests, he is generally known for his standard/solid/safe style of play, with flawless macro and use of Psi Storm (the latter of which earned him the other nickname "Mudang Protoss", meaning shaman Protoss in Korean, owing to the uncanny accuracy of his Psionic Storm use), although he has been leaning away from this slightly in recent times due to changes in the playing style of the other races. Reach is known for his PvP and PvT skills, with his PvZ being inconsistently brilliant. Park is captain of the KTF progaming team. Currently, Reach is in the midst of an 18 month slump and has been absent from the Starleagues and KeSPA rankings for quite some time.
- Lee Yun-Yeol ([ReD]NaDa) (Terran)
- The 'Genius Terran' started his progaming career by beating ChRh (Choi In Kyu) on the "Amateur vs Pro" TV show. Statistically, he's the best player in history, having achieved the highest KeSPA score of any player before it was re-scaled. He has a consistent and dominating style, backed up with excellent macro. He has been on the team IS, KTF and now the Pantech EX, formerly known as Toona SG. Nada has won 3 OSLs, 3 MSLs, and the first KT-KTF invitational tournament. He is one of two players to have won the OSL 3 times, winning the "Golden Mouse" trophy awarded for this feat after a resurgent OSL victory in late 2006. As of February 2007, he is 2nd in the KeSPA rankings. He also ended up first in PGTour Season 3.
- Kang Min (Nal_rA) (Protoss)
- The 'Dreaming Protoss' is often considered to be a Protoss version of Boxer due to his highly creative and daring play. He frequently hides his buildings in other parts of the map and is one of the best players to use corsairs and reavers in tandem against Zerg opponents. He won one OSL and MSL and does exceptionally well in team tournaments, playing for KTF. He has won the Blizzard WorldWide Invitational tournament during early 2006. He has recently recovered from a severe slump; as a result, he has qualified for Shin Han Bank 2 OSL and made it to the Pringles MSL finals by defeating Kingdom, only to lose 3-1 to sAviOr. He also made it to the Semi-Finals of the subsequent Pringles 2 MSL, only to lose again at the hands of sAviOr. Nal_rA is currently ranked 20th in the February 2007 KeSPA rankings.
- Park Yong-Wook (Kingdom) (Protoss)
- Considered the best PvP player in history, Kingdom has only won a single OSL but is noted for his fantastic unit control. Nicknamed the 'Devil Toss', he is famous for using his scouting probes to effectively harass enemy workers. He is also known for his frequent use of (and excellent micromanagement with) reavers and carriers. He plays for SK Telecom T1 and was ranked 25th on the April 2006 KeSPA rankings and outside the top 30 in June and July rankings. With strong performances in both the first and second Pringles MSL, Kingdom is now ranked 29th in the February 2007 issue of the KeSPA rankings. After Boxer's move to the army, Kingdom is the new captain of the SKT1 progaming team.
- Choi Yeon-Sung (iloveOOv) (Terran)
- The next on line of successful Terran players after Boxer and Nada, iloveOOv's macro is even better than Nada's, leading to him being jokingly known as the "Cheater Terran" due to his ability to create large armies in a short span of time. He is also somewhat more aggressive than Nada and seems to have a more varied playing style, and possibly a somewhat better strategic grasp of the game, which may account for his greater overall success. He has won the MBCGame Starleague (MSL) three times in succession, an amazing feat, and in November 2004 finally won the OSL, cementing his place as one of the strongest players of the game. He won his 2nd OSL title in March 2006, defeating JulyZerg in the 1st ShinHan Bank tournament.
- He has an interesting relationship with Boxer (who was on the same SK Telecom T1 team with him), as he sees Boxer as a kind of "older brother" or mentor (Boxer brought iloveoov to the professional scene after seeing his talent in amateur leagues), and as a result, was somewhat regretful for beating him (3-2) in the finals of EVER OSL in November 2004. Despite winning WCG 2006, iloveoov is in the midst of a slump from his former dominance with a prolonged absence from both the MSL and OSL. As a result, his KeSPA ranking has fallen to 23rd in the February rankings.
- Park Seong Jun (JulyZerg) (Zerg)
- Ranked 13th as of February 2006, JulyZerg (or simply "July"), the "God of War", is credited with revitalizing what had been stagnant Zerg play, and of leading the way for a kind of "Zerg renaissance" with his highly dynamic and aggressive style, incorporating a strong understanding of his opponent's weaknesses and fantastic unit control. He is the first Zerg player to win an OSL; having accomplished this feat in 2004, and he also won the second KT-KTF Premiere League. In July 2005 he won a second OSL, something that to date only four other players have accomplished. July is known for being closer to the amateur community than the typical professional player, having played in amateur leagues such as the WGTour Speed Ladder in the past, and was one of the players on the Asian team for the friendly Blizzard Invitational Tournament held in early 2005. July also placed second in WCG 2006, losing 1-2 to iloveoov in the championship.
- Seo Ji Hoon (XellOs) (Terran)
- XellOs is nicknamed the "Perfect Terran" for his standard and safe play, not having any weaknesses in any match ups, and considered the best player of TvT in the world. He was the 2004 WCG Champion, and though heavily favored to defend his title in 2005, was upset by fellow Korean player Silent_Control in the elimination rounds. Despite a heavy slump, XellOs made a reappearance in the 2006 Pringles 2 MSL, reaching the quarterfinals. XellOs is now ranked 24th in the February 2007 KeSPA rankings.
- Park Tae Min (GoRush) (Zerg)
- The winner of the 2000 WCG, GoRush played in the early days of StarCraft, before dropping off the radar for several years. In 2005 he returned to win an MSL and finished 3rd and 4th in two OSLs. He is known for a relatively economy-heavy/late-game-focused style compared to other Korean Zerg players. GoRush is ranked 9th in the February 2007 KeSPA rankings.
- Ma Jae-Yoon (sAviOr) (Zerg)
- Previously known as IPXZerg, sAviOr is currently ranked #1 in the KeSPA rankings as of February 2007. He has won three MSLs, one OSL, and the last three SuperFight finals over BoxeR, NaDa, and IntoTheRainbow. He has been nicknamed Maestro for his dominating play, combining effective micro with an incredible "game sense". He is currently considered the top player in the world, backed up by his #1 rated KeSPA rating and his 70%+ win percentage in 2006 televised matches.
History of pro-level tournament winners
All listed from oldest to most recent. Note that many of the Starleagues are named after the corporate sponsor for that year and that the other finalists are given in descending order of their finish. The players are from South Korea except where noted.
Winners of the Ongamenet Starleague:
- FreeMuRa over TheBoy, Ssamjang (99 Progamer Korea Open)
- Grrrr... (Canada) over H.O.T-Forever (Hanaro Communication Tooniverse Starleague 1999-2000)
- Garimto over Skelton (Freechal 2000)
- BoxeR over JinNam, Grrrr... (Canada), Kingdom (Hanbitsoft April - June 2001)
- BoxeR over YellOw, V-Gundam, Tis)Issac (Coca-Cola July - September 2001)
- Garimto over BoxeR, TheMarine, YellOw (Sky 2001 October - December 2001)
- Sync over H.O.T. Forever, ChRh, Oddysay (NATE April - June 2002)
- Reach over BoxeR, YellOw, ElkY (France) (Sky 2002 July - October 2002)
- NaDa over ChOJJa, YellOw, Junwi (Panasonic November 2002 - February 2003)
- XellOs over YellOw, BoxeR, Junwi (Olympus April - June 2003)
- Kingdom over Nal_rA, Junwi, Reach (MyCube August - October 2003)
- Nal_rA over ZeuS, Silent_Control, JJu (NHN Hangame December 2003 - March 2004)
- July over Reach, iloveoov, Silent_Control (Gillette April - July 2004)
- iloveoov over BoxeR, Reach, YellOw (2004 Ever August - November 2004)
- NaDa over July, GoRush, GooDFriend (IOPS December 2004 - March 2005)
- July over GooDFriend, XellOs, GoRush (2005 Ever May 2005 - July 2005)
- AnyTime over BoxeR, iloveoov, PuSan (So1 August 2005 - November 2005)
- iloveoov over July, PuSan, Casy (2005 Shinhan December 2005 - March 2006)
- Casy over ChOJJa, YellOw, JJu (2006 Shinhan 1 April 2006 - June 2006)
- NaDa over Anytime, Midas, Goodfriend (2006 Shinhan 2 September 2006 - November 2006)
- sAviOr over NaDa, Iris, Casy (2006 Shinhan 3 December 2006 - February 2007)
Winners of the MBC Starleague:
- Boxer over YellOw, IntoTheRain, ChRh (KPGA 1st Tour)
- NaDa over YellOw, Black, ChOJJa (KPGA 2nd Tour)
- NaDa over Reach, BoxeR, ChRh (KPGA 3rd Tour)
- NaDa over ChOJJa, kOs, JinNam (KPGA 4th Tour)
- Nal_rA over NaDa, Zeus, ChOJJa (Stout May - August 2003)
- iloveoov over YellOw, NaDa, GooDFriend (TriGem September - November 2003)
- iloveoov over NaDa, TheMarine, Nal_rA (HanaFOS January - March 2004)
- iloveoov over Kingdom, Nal_rA, GooDFriend (Spris May - August 2004)
- GoRush over NaDa, XellOs, ChOJJa (You're the GolfKing July 2004 - February 2005)
- sAviOr over Reach, ChOJJa, iloveoov (UZOO April 2005 - August 2005)
- ChOJJa over sAviOr, iloveoov, MuMyung (Cyon October 2005 - January 2006)
- sAviOr over Nal_rA, Kingdom, Midas (Pringles I April 2006 - July 2006)
- sAviOr over SiLvEr, Nal_rA, JJu (Pringles II August 2006 - November 2006)
- Bisu over sAviOr, Nal_rA, HwaSin (GOM TV December 2006 - March 2007)
Winners of the World Cyber Games in Starcraft: Brood War:
- GoRush over I.LOVE_STAR (2000; technically this was the "World Cyber Challenge" rather than the "World Cyber Games")
- BoxeR over ElkY (France) (2001)
- BoxeR over YellOw (2002)
- ogogo over FiSheYe (Germany) (2003)
- XellOs over Midas (2004)
- fOru over Androide (Russia) (2005)
- iloveoov over JulyZerg (2006)
Winning Teams of the Sky Proleague:
- Round 1: Hanbit Stars over SKTelecom T1
- Round 2: Pantech & Curitel Curriors over SouL
- Round 3: KOR over KTF MagicNs
- Grand Final: Hanbit Stars over Pantech & Curitel Curriors
- Season 1: SKTelecom T1 over KTF MagicNs
- Season 2: SKTelecom T1 over Samsung KHAN
- Grand Final: SKTelecom T1 over KTF MagicNs
- Season 1: SKTelecom T1 over MBC Game Hero
- Season 2: MBC Game Hero over CJ Entus
- Grand Final: MBC Game Hero over SKTelecom T1
Winners of the KT-KTF Premiere League:
- NaDa over BoxeR (2003)
- July over GoRush (2004)
- TheMarine over I.LOVE_STAR (1999)
- [GG99]Slayer over I.LOVE_STAR (2000)
- TheMarine over PRO_NT.SONJJANG (2001)
Winner of the Snickers All-Star league:
- YellOw over NaDa (2005)
Winners of the OGN King Of Kings tournament:
- Grrrr... over TheBoy (2001)
- YellOw over V-Gundam (2002)
Winners of the MBC Winner's Championship:
- MuMyung over YellOw (2002)
- YellOw over BoxeR (2003)
Winner of the Shinhan Masters tournament:
- Nada over Savior (2007)
Winner of the CKCG (China-Korea Cyber Games)
- iloveoov over NaDa (2005)
Winners of BlizzCon:
- YellOw over Reach, NaDa, Nal_rA (2005)
Winners of Blizzard Worldwide Invitational:
- Nal_rA over YellOw (2006)
Winner of IEF (International e-sports Festival):
- NaDa over iloveoov (2006)
Winner of WEF (World e-sports Festival):
- sAviOr over iloveoov (2005)
- sAviOr over NaDa (2006)
- TeamLiquid articles
- GosuGamers StarCraft - updated with news and replays
- SCLegacy - updated with news
- Life as a Professional Gamer - Interview & profile of professional StarCraft gamer Guillaume Patry (Grrrr_ca)
- The Rekrul Korea Story - A foreigner's perspective on the Korean professional scene
The list of authors can be seen in the page history of StarCraft_professional_competition.
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