Last week, Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung announced that he’ll be returning to Korea. When I first met him, he was on Immortals. With a smiling face, he greeted all the reporters and it seemed he got along well with all his teammates. After joining Team Liquid, Olleh played alongside Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng and claimed two LCS championships before jumping through several teams and Academy teams.
Quite a long time had passed since I first met him, but Olleh was still the same — happy and delightful. In our interview, Olleh shared his memories with Doublelift and Jake "Xmithie" Pucherro.
Hello! How have you been?
I’m a free agent for the first time in eight years! There's nobody telling me what to do, so I’ve been streaming and saying whatever I want. That's made streaming a lot more fun. I was coaching Golden Guardians until recently but it didn’t go that well so I left. I heard that my visa would be valid until the end of the year so I’ll be around until then, streaming, and hanging around.
You’ve been in NA for more than three years and now you've announced that you’ll be returning to Korea. How did you reach that decision?
I’m not 100 percent sure that I’ll be able to return to the LCK. Some people used to say that if there’s Wadid in EU, there’s Olleh in NA. When Wadid returned to the LCK, he was unfortunately relegated, but now he’s doing well on the casters desk.
I think it might be kind of late for me to squeeze back into the league as a player. Even if I’m really good in solo queue and have reached top 10 on the leaderboards, it would be better for teams to sign younger players instead of me. Mata is head coach now and he’s the same age as I am. Flame is the oldest player in the league now and the next oldest is two years younger than him.
Looking at how times have changed, I’m not sure that I’ll be able to play 17 hours a day in Korea, even if I’m confident in my current stamina and fitness, since I’ve been working out regularly.
Even if it isn’t a player position, don’t you have coaching opportunities?
Frankly, a part of me wants to steal the analyst position from Wadid [laughs], but not too much. Rather than taking other people's positions, I’ll try to slowly find what I can do. Maybe streaming, or even be on the broadcast, if they want me on the analyst desk. I think I can do well there. I might even be able to do better than CloudTemplar.
As for being a coach… I tried coaching Golden Guardians for about two weeks, but it was really difficult. The team’s support players’ LP was lower than mine, so I asked the academy support to play at least a few games a day with the jungler after the scrims, but when he didn't that made me really annoyed. I used to play until late night after scrims but they didn’t even play until 9 pm… I thought maybe I’m too eager. In Korea, it’ll probably be alright since all the players work really hard. That might be better for me, since I like intense competition.
"My hands were shaking in disbelief. I was one of the highest paid players when I was in Taiwan, but he offered me four times that… I’m still so very thankful."
How were your three and a half years in NA?
In my first year, I joined the Immortals. I failed to reach Worlds in Taiwan twice before that, so I thought it might be difficult to get a spot in NA. But luckily, or maybe it was destiny, Immortals called me. I told Noah that there were other offers, but I wanted to have a better career rather than just earn money. When he heard that, he made a few calls and offered me even more [laughs]. I didn’t believe it at that point, but he showed me the contract with the numbers right away. My hands were shaking in disbelief. I was one of the highest paid players when I was in Taiwan, but he offered me four times that… I’m still so very thankful.
My bot duo buddy was Cody Sun back then. My mentality wasn’t that strong and Cody Sun was a rookie, so our results weren’t that good. The spring season went that way and the management told me they might be able to bring WildTurtle so they asked me. What I said was that it won’t be good to give up on a rookie player, so I told them to trust Cody Sun and that I’ll play with all my heart. That way, we were able to continue in the summer and that was when our synergy took off.
Xmithie was a great shotcaller on the team. All I said to my teammates was “Follow Jake!” and that made us win a lot of games. We were able to reach Worlds for the first time. I was really happy in Immortals. If we did just a little bit better, we might have even reached the semifinals. The first year in NA was successful in a way, but the end was somewhat regretful.
Sounds like a happy time. How did the next year go?
After that year, the team disbanded. At that time, I'd often tell Xmithie that I want to continue playing with him. When Xmithie got an offer from Team Liquid, he told them that he wants to play with me. At the same time, Team Liquid picked up Doublelift. One day, Doublelift messaged me, saying, "If we play together, we can become the best bot duo in NA. I believe in you." When I saw that message, it was surreal. I still remembered Doublelift’s Vayne from when I first started LoL; I couldn’t believe that I would be playing alongside such a player. So, I joined Team Liquid.
After I joined, however, Doublelift would criticize me a lot. He was like, “I thought you were good, why do you suck?!” [laughs] Since I was criticized like that every day, I was really falling apart. We needed to be in the same space to play, but that itself was put pressure on me. So sometimes, I just went home to play.
Even so, I overcame that situation and we reached the playoffs. We beat Echo Fox in the semifinals, and that was when that incident happened. It was when Netflix was filming the whole process so I thought it was just a joke. I thought everybody was just trying to pull a bad prank on me. I never thought such a thing would happen around me. I was all shaken up because of that.
"When I saw that message, it was surreal. [...] I couldn't believe that I would be playing alongside such a player."
The next day was the finals and Doublelift gathered everyone and started talking. He said that he didn’t need pity and that we shouldn’t try to be overly friendly or anything. He told us to treat him like any other day. When I heard that, I really got to respect him. Honestly, before that point, I kind of hated him, since he was always criticizing me. I don’t think I would ever be able to do the same.
Because of what he said, I tried to play better than I ever could. I wanted to have Doublelift win it all. In that finals, we won 3-0. I felt that I accomplished one of my goals, winning a championship in the NA. I also wanted Doublelift to get what he deserved. When he hugged me after we won, tears just started flowing out. It felt that he finally recognized me. He asked me why I was crying, but I wasn’t able to say. Ovilee was saying, “Why can’t you just tell him that you love him?!” How can I say that? [laughs]
And then you struggled at MSI.
When we went to MSI, I was also criticized severely by Doublelift. We were both sensitive when we scrimmed and he'd say, “Boy, you really suck at Janna.” My mentality was already shaken up, and that pulled the trigger. So I told him, “Hey, the sub support is the world’s best Janna. Play with him!” The next day, he really did. I was watching from the back, and they were losing anyway. I was upset that he was only criticizing me.
After we were down 0-4, the coach told everybody, “We have nothing to lose. It's all over. Do whatever you want to do.” Oddly enough, my mentality recovered after hearing that. After that, playing the game was extremely easy. We had an easy game against RNG’s bot duo. Xayah/Rakan was really insane back then and we took the game very late with Kog’Maw/Tahm Kench. If it wasn’t for that last moment where I overextended... Anyways, if I was in my best condition from the beginning to the end, I think we really might have won it all. For real. If I weren’t shaken up, we would have won 80-90% of the matches. So I feel responsible for that.
"I also wanted Doublelift to get what he deserved. When he hugged me after we won, tears just started flowing out. It felt that he finally recognized me."
In the summer, the AD Carry meta went away and it was time for Vladimir and Syndra bot. The game got really difficult. When we were playing Kai’Sa, the bot lane was demolished even before Kai’Sa hit level 6. It was really hard. Luck wasn’t on our side at Worlds as well.
If I am to go to Worlds again, I think it’ll be different. This year, I worked on myself a lot while being alone because of the pandemic. I worked out, I meditated at least an hour a day. Now, I don’t feel like I've lost even if we do. It feels that I learned something. I don’t have any negative thoughts. I recently sent a message to Doublelift saying, “Thank you, I’m sorry I wasn’t good enough when we played together.” He answered, “Beating Uzi and RNG in lane with you was one of my best experiences.” He also told me that he’d like to play with me again if we had the chance. I was so thankful because he said that.
I also learned that he wanted to keep Xmithie and me in the roster. I thought it was him who didn’t want me. When I heard that, I cried. I didn’t know that he had faith in me; I thought it was him who got rid of me. Now, I’m 100% his fan and I’m cheering for him all the time. If we’re ever to be on the same team again, I would really do my best so that he can raise the Summoner’s Cup. Since we’re not playing together, I’ll just hope that he does well with Biofrost.
When was the hardest, saddest moment in the LCS?
I remember two things. When I first joined Immortals and played the Spring Split, it was right after I broke up with my girlfriend. I tried to keep myself together, so I practiced hard and quit smoking. During that time, she sent me a message and I read that by mistake. It was about herself doing well, with a new rich boyfriend and that she’s traveling around the world. That really hurt me. For a while, I cried when I slept and even when I was practicing. Once, we were practicing and tears fell out of nowhere. Dardoch saw that and consoled me.
Besides that, it would be when we were eliminated at the MSI, after being criticized by Doublelift.
How did you overcome that? It can be common to players that go abroad.
I learned to make myself happy. I need to love myself. I meditated, took care of my skin, worked out, and learned to be happy by watching my muscles get bigger. That made me forget about getting girlfriends. I do want to make someone I love happy, but I don’t want anything in return.
If I ever meet a lover, I don’t want anything. We can date, drink wine, and talk while taking a walk. I want to communicate emotionally. I’d like to have a conversation with someone who’s conservative and innovative.
What was your happiest moment in the LCS?
When we won the Spring Finals. Especially, they were shooting '7 Days Out' at that time. That was really good because when I’m on a date with someone I don’t know, I need to introduce myself. Then, I just turn on Netflix and show myself in it. Then they’re surprised and they know more about me by watching the documentary. I think it’s the brightest moment of my career.
Other teams don’t have their documentary when they win the championship so it was the best time to win one. I’m also proud that I was there during Doublelift’s hardest moment. I wasn’t able to say a lot of positive things to him, but I feel that I did my best in what I could do for him at that time.
Is there anything you didn't do in the LCS that you regret?
We won 3-0 against Cloud9. I had started working out at that time, and I actually wanted to go “HO!” like Ronaldo taking my shirt off. But I wasn’t confident enough. That's what I regret. [laughs]
Who do you think you’ll miss the most if you return to Korea?
Xmithie. He’s my soul father. I kept calling him "daddy". Xmithie never forced me to do anything. He suggested we do things together; I always followed what he said.
Once, I went with him to a music festival. I had never been to such a thing so I was worried that it might be too outgoing. But Xmithie told me to just come and that Blackpink is coming. It was the first time I saw a female celebrity in real life and they were so pretty. That day changed my life. I was shouting the whole time. It was so good.
Your English has become a lot better. Have you learned a lot from Sophie Ahn?
I can talk freely now, but there still are words I don’t know, so I write them down on a pad and memorize them. There’s so much slang as well.
I wanted to learn more from Sophie Ahn. I wanted to go to college so I studied English a lot and did more homework than I was supposed to. But suddenly, the team would say, “Olleh, your English is good enough,” and told me to stop getting tutored. Flame kept on getting the lessons. I really wanted to learn more, so I was sad.
Your high school math teacher has been cheering for you in the comments of your articles.
Really?? Wow! I really want to visit her. There’s a story I want to tell. One day, she had some students come out and solve math problems on the chalkboard. After we all solved it, she said, “I think Joo-sung will be the most successful person in this classroom.” I wasn’t even the best math student in that class. [Reads his teacher’s comments] Thank you so much. I’ll work hard so that my signature would be worth more than 100 Million Won and make you rich!
What will you be doing until you leave for Korea?
I’m going to meet up with people. Over the last seven years, I used to play 12 to 17 hours a day. Now that I’m a free agent, I wasn't sure of what to do at first. So I decided to read and study to get f smarter and find what to do after that.
What do you want to do when you return to Korea?
I want to get invited by streamers and stream together. I’m a fan of Woowakgood. There are other people I’d like to play games with: Chimchakman, Ambition, Flame… Also, I want to go take a family picture at a great place.
How were the fans’ reactions after you announced that you’ll be returning to Korea?
I’m not sure how the Korean people reacted. They probably don’t know me as well. If anybody recognizes me, I’ll be really thankful and ask them for a handshake. I remember talking to a few Korean fans during Worlds 2018. Announcer Lee Hyeon-kyung treated me really nice. I messaged her to say hello, but she hasn't responded yet [Laughs]. Anyways, if I meet some fans that know me in Korea, I’d like to chat with them for a while.
I’m really grateful to the NA fans. They made me get a positive attitude. I recently did an AMA and they really left a lot of comments. I answered questions for about three hours. I really appreciate all your love.
Lastly, a word to the readers?
To the Korean fans… Since I’ve been abroad for a long time, I have a lot of stories to tell. I studied a lot about philosophical issues so I can help out maintaining your mentality during solo queue. If anybody invites me, I’ll go and talk a lot.
To the NA fans, I recently threw away all the luxuries while learning minimalism. What I felt while meditating is that I’m a person who wants to spread happiness to others. That’s the reason I want to grow my stream. It’s a difficult period of time. I want to help the fans in any way by buying masks or whatever. Please keep an eye on my stream!
Images via Riot Games
A managing editor who can do more things than you think.
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