To many LCK fans, he's a player that many are fond of. Bae “Bang” Jun-sik, a 2-time world champion, former special correspondent for Inven Global, and the current Bot Laner for Evil Geniuses, sent Inven a letter which details his life in the United States, his thoughts on the 2020 LCS split so far, and his goals for the future.
Note: The following letter has been accordingly formatted for clarity purposes.
Hello. My name is Bae “Bang” Jun-sik. It’s currently pretty late in the night here. The COVID-19 pandemic has gotten very serious in the U.S. as well, so I hope everyone reading this is staying safe as well. I’m currently just staying inside, practicing for over three weeks. Even when I go for groceries, everyone in line is wearing masks while waiting in lines with their groceries, and there aren’t that many things that I can buy. These days, the only time I get to enjoy the small window of breathing in fresh air is when the delivery guy comes with my food.
Except for the coronavirus, life in the U.S has been alright. There’s nothing that’s particularly good nor bad. I had a car to go around places in Korea, and the fact that I don’t have my own car is a thing that bums me out a little. However, I’m always at the team house, so it’s not really that big of an inconvenience. The language barrier has diminished quite a bit, to the point where I even do interviews in English. I only study English with a tutor once a week. When I got the basic grammar and vocabulary down, because I speak it all the time in my daily life, I got used to speaking the language pretty quickly.
My house is located in Santa Monica, Los Angeles. It’s a place famous for its beaches. From the house, the beach is a bit far, where it’s a 30-minute walk. When I was initially with 100 Thieves, the beach was close, so I sometimes went for a walk on the beach, but I rarely get to do that here.
Each player has their own apartment provided by the organization. We have our own private space. Almost all NA teams have the same system, but there are orgs like Cloud9 where everyone lives together under the same roof in their own rooms.
The housing costs in LA are very expensive. Housing costs in Seoul are nothing compared to LA. Right now, I’m staying at a two-room apartment with Irean (the head coach), and the rent here is around 4,000,000 ~ 5,000,000 KRW (roughly 3,300 ~ 4,100 USD). Even if there’s no deposit you have to put down, the prices are still insane. It’s around 10 times the amount that you’d pay in Korea. With this kind of money, you can probably live in a penthouse in Seoul.
I have absolutely no problems with food here. You can get most Korean ingredients through Amazon, and I sometimes go shopping at a Korean mart to cook my meals. I really enjoy watching this Youtube channel called, ‘Paik’s Cuisine’, and since the explanations in the video are so detailed, I cook a lot of his recipes at home.
Back in Korea, I used to practice Kendo to stay in shape. In the U.S, I replaced Kendo with going to the gym. However, because of the coronavirus, all gyms have closed down. I still felt the need to work out, so I bought a yoga mat. I rarely use it though. I think I gained a bit of weight while in quarantine.
I’m currently playing under Evil Geniuses (EG). I was traded to EG, and I really loved the roster. Our Jungler and Support, Svenskeren and Zeyzal were from C9, and the fact that Zeyzal was on the team made me very excited. I thought that he played very well last year, so he was one of the players that I really wanted to play with.
Playing with him made me realize that Zeyzal's playstyle is very similar to Wolf's. I believe that when someone makes a certain play, you don’t need to verbally confirm to make a play. If your teammate’s thinking the same thing, the play is made just the way you imagined it. There were many moments like that with Zeyzal, and I was genuinely surprised.
I believe that as a pro gamer, the method of communication and feedback is incredibly important. That’s how you get better by playing scrims. That process is critical, and Zeyzal is a player that improves through such a process. He catches the important points very well and is very reliable.
When I first looked at the EG roster, I believed that with hard work, we could easily be top 3 in the LCS. Whether we could win the championship or not all came down to after we practiced, so I didn’t have too high of an expectation. Although it’s always hard to judge how a team would do by looking at the roster alone, I knew that we can go to Worlds through hard work. Team Liquid and CLG received much hype from their roster, but they performed poorly this split.
Even with us, at the beginning of the season, we performed so poorly, I didn’t understand why we were performing so poorly. It was to the point where I… didn’t really know what to do. I was really stressed out, because putting results aside, we lost in very weird ways. Our quality of practice was poor as well, and we couldn’t transition how things were in scrims onto the stage. Speaking more directly, things were very messy.
Even so, I don’t believe that NA players lack professionalism. This is a huge misunderstanding. Everyone is super competitive and is passionate to put on a great performance. The frustration comes from things not improving even with a lot of practice, and that transitioned into that aforementioned misunderstanding. I believe that people think NA is lazy because of the continued poor performances in international events among other things.
There are no special reasons why our team started performing better from the middle of the split. As the split went on, the team took practice more and more seriously. We tried to fix the mistakes during scrims and started understanding what kind of teamplay was required to win. Nothing big happened to drastically turn things around for the team.
I often shared a lot of feedback with Jiizuke. People make mistakes in-game, but if those mistakes happen a lot, it can greatly impact your chances of victory, so I told him that he should minimize his mistakes. I firmly believe that there's always a correct solution in this game, so I believe that there needs to be a reason behind every play. It’s not healthy to expect that your enemy will make mistakes and capitalize on them, and our team used to play like that.
People may criticize me for playing too safe, but I believe there’s a method in fighting to win. And it’s not like I’m always playing passive. The team spent a lot of time debating amongst ourselves in the reasons why we made certain plays. In League of Legends, depending on your team composition, the plays and the rotations you make at certain points in the game are all different. We repeatedly practiced what we need to do under many different scenarios, and gave feedback on our execution. Now, I believe that the whole team is on the same page.
No one’s always right. I think that it’s important to communicate to find the right answer in a collective manner. To see that everyone, the players and the coaching staff’s efforts pay off brings me much joy.
Our Head Coach, Irean, played as a Bot Laner in Korea during Season 1 and 2. I think he retired from professional play after a year and is a seasoned coach who previously worked in Vietnam, China, Europe, and Turkey.
Players tend to have their own preferences when it comes to working with coaches. I followed Coach Kim, cCarter, and kkOma very well, because they were all very considerate of the players, and protected them as well. Irean’s very similar in that way, where he takes care of the players’ mental aspects very well.
I didn’t come to NA to play in a more comfortable setting nor to relax. My last achievement in the LCK was 7th in the standings. At the time, I couldn’t make it to Worlds for the first time in three years, so I was very disappointed. Back when I was preparing to play in a different region, my number one priority was whether or not the team had the potential to go to Worlds, and 100 Thieves made it to Worlds in the previous year.
If 100 Thieves did well when I was on the team, there wouldn’t have been any misunderstandings. Ever since I was on T1, I felt that you grow as a player and a person when you fail to produce results. As a pro, I feel that you always have to prove yourself with results, and I also want to give back through good results, rather than just words.
I also played professionally for a long time, and my professional career is starting to see the end of its road. My current goal is to play professionally for over 10 years, which means that I want to play for at least two more years. Because of the mandatory military service that all Korean men have to do, this is not an easy feat to achieve.
Although it may be different per person, I had times where I was just mentally exhausted. It may sound like whining if you compare it to the tangible benefits that I get in return, but at that rate, the cycle never ends. I guess that I might end up retiring earlier if I can’t handle the mental tax. I’m going to retire when my level of professionalism isn’t there anymore, and I truly believe that it should be the case for everyone.
Even right now, I want to win and play well in matches. I find a lot of joy and satisfaction in such things. Although I’ll probably retire when all of this becomes too much for me to handle, unless I’m mentally cornered to such extremity, I want to play for more than 10 years. There are old pros that perform well these days, so as long as I get the sense of satisfaction and fruitfulness, I want to keep going.
When my life as a pro ends, I think that I’ll still be working in a game-related field, not limited to esports. My hobby is playing games other than League (laughter). Exercise, playing games, and eating good food is how I spend most of my off-time, but I don’t exercise for fun nor as a hobby. Working in a game-related field would be my number 1 choice, and if not, perhaps I’ll be working with food.
LCK will always be the number one region for me to play in, with NA and China coming in a close second. However, losing is a big source of stress for me, and after contemplating many different teams to go to, I chose NA. I really wanted to stay in the LCK, but if it’s not a team that wins a lot, I’m not too sure I’d join. In a team that performs well, there need to be many players that are renowned, and in order to play with such players, I first need to prove myself. LCK has a special place in my heart.
If I do go back to the LCK, I think that I’ll definitely need my own private space. Players need to play throughout most of the year, so recovery is critical. I think that a lot of seasoned players would agree with me. When I was a rookie, I was able to keep playing for 16 hours straight and have no problems, but now, having that time for myself is really important.
I watch a lot of LCK. Nowadays, NA doesn’t think too highly of the LCK. They regard the LPL or the LEC a lot higher. If I share some good picks from the LCK, players jokingly say, “You still watch the LCK?” I believe that teams high in the standings are incredibly good, but I’ll have to see how they do on the international stage. As a spectator, the LCK teams do seem beatable, and I believe that we can take down the teams in the middle-low in the standings.
However, when I was in the LCK, when people from other regions say that things seem winnable against the LCK, I was dumbstruck (laughter). Ironically, now that I’m in a different region, things do seem winnable against them.
The winner’s bracket of the LCS playoffs is just days away. C9 is the strongest team at the moment. I personally feel that it’ll all come down to champion priority, draft, and lane matchups. Our fundamentals may slightly fall behind them, but I don’t think there’s a huge gap between us and them. As long as we don’t make fatal mistakes, we’ll have our windows of opportunities to win.
I sometimes chat with kkOma. Most of the time, I contact him when I’m exhausted. He calls me as soon as he sees my message on the messenger app, and we end up talking for around 20 minutes at a time. He gives me good advice and cheers me on. He’s still one of the people that I rely on the most, and even though we may not talk every day, he’s the one person I think about when I’m exhausted or when I’m really busy. He’s someone that will stay in my life forever, and I’m here today because of kkOma.
I sometimes have dreams about playing in T1 again. In those dreams, I remember being subbed in for Teddy after suffering a loss. I think that I have those dreams because I’m still a huge fan of T1, and I really enjoy having those dreams. Now, I’m more of a fan than anything, and T1 is a team that will always have a special place in my heart.
Thank you for always cheering me on. Whether it’s watching my matches or telling me words of support, it is always a great fuel to continue pushing myself. I want to give back through results rather than words, and I’ll always be grateful.
Striving for perfection to achieve excellence in esports