A South Korean professional video gamer has described the “unspeakable” racism he has suffered while based in Texas in a clip that has gone viral on social media, sparking condemnation of the abuse.
The United States has seen a surge in anti-Asian violence in the past year, which activists have blamed on former President Donald Trump‘s rhetoric, especially his repeated description of Covid-19 as the “China virus”.
Lee Eui-seok, who plays the game Overwatch for the team Dallas Fuel under the name Fearless, said in a Q&A on streaming platform Twitch that this was the first time he was experiencing such racism.
“Being Asian here is terrifying,” the 22-year-old said.
“People keep trying to pick fights with us… There’s even people who cough on us. They’ll deliberately cough on us. They’ll (curse at us)… while laughing.”
“The racism here is no joke.”
A clip from the broadcast was posted with English subtitles on Twitter Tuesday by Jade “swingchip” Kim, a Korean gamer and manager of the team Florida Mayhem.
Kim said she too had experienced racism in the United States, and told the Washington Post that Lee’s comments “gave me whiplash.”
“With everything going on in the States lately, I couldn’t let myself fold this one away as well, so I ended up translating the clip and posting it.”
The subtitled clip had received more than 326,000 views by Thursday.
Anti-Asian hate crimes almost tripled from 49 to 122 last year across 16 major US cities, even as overall hate crime fell seven percent, according to a recent report by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism.
Lee said the racist abuse he suffered in Dallas had “been happening almost every single day” and was “terrifying” and “severe.”
People on the street would walk up and shout racist slurs, he said, adding that three years ago, when he was based in Los Angeles, he was able to “just peacefully (live) in the US.”
“I don’t think we had issues then.”
Lee’s team is owned by Envy Gaming, whose founder Mark Rufail condemned the abuse and “uncalled-for hatred”, vowing to ensure the safety of his players.
He said there were eight South Korean players and three South Korean coaches at Dallas Fuel.
“Nobody should ever feel that their safety or their livelihoods are in danger, they should never feel threatened… just because of their race,” Rufail said in a video posted on Twitter.
The Fuel and Kim’s team the Mayhem both compete in the Overwatch eSports league, which is owned by global gaming giant Activision Blizzard.
In a statement to US media, the firm said it condemned racism in “the strongest possible terms,” adding that it was working across the organization “to do our part to combat hate and ignorance.”
In his broadcast, Lee said one way he avoids the abuse is by going outside in his team’s jersey.
“Sometimes… I wear my team uniform around on purpose,” he said.
“If I have my jersey on, I think they realize we’re part of some kind of team so they don’t bother us as much.”