Recently, SKTelecom T1 AD Carry Bae "Bang" Jun-sik has received a barrage of criticism from Korean social media users. While many in North America have taken to the internet to say his punishment is unreasonable, there’s a lot to consider.
If you don’t know what happened, Bae made a rude comment, responding to a (rude) viewer of his stream who said he should work harder. He said, "My salary would be higher than a hundred people like you put together. You should speak for yourself and work harder." After this, SKT was punished with a caution, which by itself doesn’t mean anything. Two cautions becomes a warning and that’s when penalties start to kick in.
A lot of non-Korean fans are responding with various iterations of, “What the hell? People in other regions are so much worse than that! He doesn’t deserve a punishment!” but that’s the thing. The rude kiddos from other regions aren’t playing in South Korea, where there is a vastly different culture. And it’s worth re-iterating Bae didn’t get fined, suspended, or given any sort of other tangible punishment that we know of.
Let’s unpack a bit.
Respect is important.
While you may argue that respect is valued in any culture, it’s really stressed in Korea. It’s rare to ever see a service worker or person being rude to a stranger — and no, being blunt or serious to a stranger in public does not equal being rude. Respecting people in power, elders, teachers and the like is important in Korea.
There’s also a big difference in some smack-talk during a competition and talking poorly about your viewers. A certain washed-up ADC saying, “Did you see that? I made Piglet cry!” isn’t really comparable to being degrading to your fans.
Korea values humility.
There’s also the idea of being humble and thankful for the people who got you to where you are. Reasons like this is why we see Korean players bowing, being polite and not as excitable in games. Everyone is taught to be thankful for any help they’ve received as well as humble to the people they beat.
This (arguably) comes from Korea’s heavy roots in Confucianism, which stresses the importance of humility.
Dissing salaries is a no-no.
Your job in Korea often determines your worth to Korean society. The pressure to succeed in Korea is nothing that you’ve probably ever experienced. (There’s a reason why the country has one of the highest suicide rate.) A majority of the citizens in Korea work hard for families, but have low-paying jobs. Disrespecting somebody’s salary is like saying that they’re working for nothing.
Korean “netizens” are wild.
Korean fans are often ... more passionate than your normal internet user. They’re brutal. This is often seen with K-pop groups. (If you insult somebody’s oppa, prepare for death.) If you do one wrong thing, people are going to dig up the dumbest, pettiest thing you’ve ever done and use it against you. While this might not sound too different from internet culture in other areas, it’s pretty common to see comments telling people to kill themselves for small mistakes. It’s pretty unfriendly and it gets dark and discouraging very fast.
What does this have to do with Bae?
Everything. Korea has different expectations of its players. It’s why we don’t see them being BM or “fun” and it’s why people will continuously dehumanize players and describe them as robots for not being wild on stage. While we might think this punishment is unreasonable, many Korean people believe that disrespectful actions should be punished. Bae just got the brute of it after crossing a couple lines and one slip up led to a huge call-out of his past mistakes.
TL;DR: It's a different culture, and Bang received little more than a reminder to be kind to his fans.