So, we all might recall from geography class that Asia is the largest among the seven continents in the world. So large, Konami had to subdivide Organized Play (OP) of Yu-Gi-Oh within Asia into three distinct territories. Quite the thought, yes?
So I mentioned three territories right? Aren’t they all handled by Konami based in Japan? You might think so at first, but no, that’s not the deal. Each of these regions is handled by a different governing entity, all still related to Konami in some way. As a result, each territory has its own policies regarding card legalities, events, and player management. We won’t go into the sweaty details of it all, don’t worry. We’ll just look into important differences on how each territory is being handled.
First off, we’ll start with the most obvious one. We could say right off the bat that organized play in Japan, motherland of Yu-Gi-Oh, and one single territory on its own, is handled by Konami of Japan (KoJ). KoJ does not directly involve itself with the other two regions in Asia. Until the Organized Play changes suddenly put into effect before September this year, Japan had a lenient treatment with regards to card legality. They were previously allowed to use other language cards (usually TCG cards) with their Japanese cards in their events. But now it seems they want to get rid of most foreign language cards in their Organized Play, and that’s a new thing. And being the land of OCG things, they follow the OCG banlist (which is now different from what the TCG gets, in case you didn’t know).
The second territory would encompass South Korea and… nothing else. Enter Daewon Media Co., Ltd., a gigantic media corporation deemed as Konami’s official Yu-Gi-Oh distributor in South Korea. Daewon owns the rights to anything Yu-Gi-Oh in SK; anime/manga serialization, card production, and even merchandising. As such, Korea’s OP is governed by Daewon, much like the TCG was once governed by Upperdeck.
As for the legality of cards in Korea, Korea’s banlist and the structure of product releases in Korea primarily follow the OCG. The exception to this would be the Hidden Arsenal packs, which were implemented to give Korea access to legal Duel Terminal cards. But what really makes Korean OP different from anywhere else is the unpredictable means by which they print (and reprint) promo cards into their card pool. For example, I distinctly remember around 2007 when I was starting to play, I got sour over the fact that SD8-KR (the old Harpie Structure Deck) had Dandylion and Gold Sarcophagus in it as throw-ins. Korea also receives Special Edition products on a random basis, and Premium Packs with massive numbers of promos, occasionally up to 45 at a time.
But, with such random treats must come a reasonable stipulation. Because Korea has its own unique language (gasp, it’s not Japanese), and because Daewon prints its cards to be readable by its players (in other words, in Korean only), only Korean language cards are allowed in their OP. But hey, it’s not an inconvenience at all, because they’ve got a more usable card pool than the following territory, that’s for sure.
Now the last territory and probably the most detailed part of this article: The “Asian” territory. FINALLY, would it now include every other country in Asia that’s not Japan or South Korea? Simply, no. The “Asian” region is comprised of Hong Kong and Macau, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand, and Philippines. (There is no legit yugimonz in mainland China.) At the moment of writing, I know of no evidence that there is OP for Yu-Gi-Oh in any other Asian country (aside from maybe a number of fangroups who enjoy just importing cards and playing casually).
I personally believe that this “Asian” region got the shortest end of the stick. Let me point out the fact that none of those mentioned countries/ states has Japanese as one of their major languages. However, Konami Asia, based in Hong Kong, overseer of all things “Asian”, has instructed that the region can only use JAPANESE cards. (What happened to that thing about giving people cards they can actually read?) Actually, Asian English cards also exist and are usable, but these are not the same, or as readily available as TCG cards. Imagine the disdain of English reading fans that bought and invested in TCG EN cards, only to find out that when they get into the OP system, their investment is almost worthless.
In addition, there was a HUGE legality issue regarding the use of promotional cards in the “Asian” region. It was once established that promo cards that were not circulated in these places, or reprinted into reprint sets (Starter Decks, Structure Decks, GS, BE, EE, etc.) could not be used in OP. That meant no VJMP, no WJMP, no DT, PP, LE and a lot of other promo set codes available to Japan. Again, imagine the agony of hardcore fans who had imported such products from Japan, only to find they can’t be used. Thus it was a blessing that around October last year, this heavy restriction on promo cards was partially lifted. Albeit not fully, it was a breath of fresh air, as deck building choices became so much wider. Currently, the only cards that cannot be used in the “Asian” region are Duel Terminal cards from DT03 onward which have not received any reprints.
For those players who are still clinging to their English cards or DT cards, Tournament Organizers would sometimes go out of their way to hold non-sanctioned events where such card can be used to receive prizes comprised of OCG products, as a means of to helping them convert to OCG if they choose to do so. Some of us have grown accustomed to it all, but I always wish there were an easier way to handle the Asian community. (By the way, I am currently speaking on how the Philippines would handle it, because I have no first-hand knowledge on how other Asian regions would cater to these players.)
Now, being made to use Japanese cards, this region also follows the OCG banlist (slightly modified to include the DT restriction mentioned above of course). Writing from personal experience, I find it a bit inconvenient that since we are using OCG, we must rule in accordance with OCG rulings, whereas the players, who mostly only know English, would search the net and find TCG rulings they can read (fate likes to play tricks, and sometimes, important things just tend to get ruled differently between regions). Not to mention that it’s up to us judges to get OCG rulings for new cards the TCG won’t have for months to come.
So, I guess there you have it. The Japanese, the Koreans, and the South East Asians. We operate within different systems, even within our own continent. How and why things got established this way, I don’t think I want to know. But there can be a lot of room for improvement for a more effective OP system in Asia as a whole in my opinion. As a parting note, if you do play on simulators online, be nice to the Asians. They’re just out there having some fun with cards they don’t get to use in real life.