2020 has been a rough year for everyone. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect everyday life around the world, not only are people living on lockdown but wearing masks and practicing social distancing have become a norm of people’s lives.
Due to the pandemic, the landscape of LoL Esports has been forced to adapt. Leagues switched to online formats and the most anticipated event that takes place each year, Worlds, looks vastly different from previous years. From various safety measures, press coverage done completely online, and the on-site staff being kept to a minimum, it’s hard to remember what it was like to have matches with fans cheering for their favorite teams.
As an English translator/interviewer for the LCK, Jeesun Park is one of the few that traveled to Shanghai for Worlds 2020. The last time Inven Global spoke to Jeesun Park one-on-one was in Spain during Worlds 2019, and it was conducted at an outdoor table at a local restaurant. That conversation took place over a table full of various local dishes, as health concerns were the last thing on people’s minds.
It was unfortunate that the new conversation between her and I had to take place over a Discord call. However, the fact that it was still massively intriguing to not only reminisce about the simpler times, but also listen to what her Worlds experience has been like so far, and her personal journey in coming to where she is in life, has been a rare and insightful experience, to say the least.
Remembering Worlds 2019
You’re always the one asking questions in your line of work, especially at Worlds. However, today, you’re the one that’s answering questions, so it must feel kind of different. How do you feel right now?
I’m very excited because I’m a very talkative person. It’s a great opportunity to share my story, so I’m very happy.
The last time you did an interview with Inven was during Worlds in 2019. Although it’s the same tournament, a lot has changed since.
Yes, I remember. It was in Spain around this time of the year, heading into the semifinals… Last year, I had opportunities to do interviews with various press on-site, but this year, apart from the actual matches, all media-related activities are done remotely, so it definitely feels different.
Also, I’m staying in one city for the entirety of this tournament, so it feels like I’ve found a pro among all the cons this year. There’s a lot of luggage that comes with business trips that last for 40-50 days, so while it definitely sucks that I can’t travel to different cities for Worlds, the fact that I don’t have to repeat the process of packing and unpacking my luggage to travel to different cities is a huge relief.
As far as I remember, you were very sick in Europe. Physically, how are you doing this year?
I actually forgot that I was sick until you reminded me! I did feel a little bit under the weather while I was traveling to different cities in Europe. Even back then, I’d just sort of shrug it off, and just make light conversation of it with my parents as well.
This year, because of the situation given to us at hand, everyone seems to be very sensitive to their health, and are being extra careful. I take pride in having a pretty strong immune system, so not only do I usually not get sick, I usually forget to bring supplements. This year, however, not only did I bring all sorts of disinfectants, I brought all sorts of supplements to China.
I remember having all sorts of supplements during my time in quarantine because I’m in my room all the time. Everyone that I interact with is all taking care of each others’ health, as even a slight sore throat makes us go, “You can’t get sick!”
Working and living in quarantine
I want to kick off this interview with your two-week quarantine. While players used that time to play solo queue or scrim, how have you used that time to prepare for the tournament?
Before I came to China, my schedule was packed. As I recall, Monday to Wednesday during the week before I flew out was the LCK regional qualifiers, had a day off on Thursday, and flew out on that Friday. The Summer split final was on the weekend before the qualifiers, so in previous years, whenever I’d have the two-three weeks off before I head out overseas, I’d be like, “Hmm, what do I do with all this time”?
However, since I had the time off right after I landed here, I felt like I was on vacation. My mindset was that I was going to catch up on the sleep I lost, eat well, and take care of my health. I wanted to leave without any regrets, so I had all the food I wanted before I left, and since all my meals during quarantine were nutritionally balanced, I thought, “Oh, maybe I could do the ketosis diet!”
Having food like chicken, fish, and stir-fried vegetables made me feel like I was eating healthy, and I also felt the need for a routine lifestyle here, so I was working out 30 minutes a day through Youtube. To be honest, I think I had a healthier lifestyle during quarantine.
In terms of preparing for my work, I’d obviously read up on various articles, watch games to jot down English expressions on my iPad. I’d organize my notes to spend the time that I had to study and prepare for the tournament.
"One of the translators, Marie, is a huge Gen.G fan, so when they got knocked out, she cried a lot on the way back to our hotel."
As we talked about how so many things are different this year, what’s your day like on workdays?
On game days, I’d arrive at the venue 2-3 hours before the first match. I’d receive make-up, watch the pre-show on the English cast and prepare. Players continue to come into the make-up room and since I’m close with the make-up artists, I’d help them communicate because sometimes players would be a little shy to ask to get shaved or get their eyebrows tidied up.
When the games start, our writers and I would start drafting up questions. Since I’m listening in on the English cast, there would be insight that I can gather from it, so I’d brainstorm with the other writers on the potential questions I can ask. I’m not an expert on the broadcast side of things, so I’d ask the writers, “Oh, player A hasn’t done this for a long time, so can we maybe even ask about topic A?” and confirm with them on some of the things I can ask. [...]
There were times where I was needed for a lot of press interviews as a translator, so by the time I finished with all of them, the next game would already be over. In that case, I’d quickly go over the game and look at the draft, highlights of the game, and even item builds for potential questions I can ask. The process would then repeat, and that’s what my day would look like.
During the group stages, it’s hectic for everyone, but since I have the experience, I’d tell the other translators, “Look, it all flies by pretty quickly, so hang in there. It’ll even feel empty after groups end, because not only does the number of your workdays drop significantly, you’ll have far less work. This is the highlight of Worlds, so just enjoy this time of the tournament.”
Once the knockout stages started, my workday would start a lot later. During the matches, I’d just prepare the questions for the broadcast interview and then translate during the press conference. I’d be one of the last to go back to my hotel, since I’d be there until the very end.
Jeesun and Worlds 2020
Last year, you shared some fun stories with the iconic hosts from different leagues, such as Sjokz, Candice, and Laure. Are there any fun behind-the-scenes stories from this year that you’d like to share with me?
Whenever Candice is on set, she always shares these Chinese mooncakes with the staff. Also, Candice does interviews in English as well, and since I’m always watching the English broadcast, she comes to watch with me and we end up chatting about various things. Since the delivery system is very developed here, she always asks me what I want, then orders things like fruit or whatever to share with me.
Although Laure is not here, she does remote interviews from Europe, so whenever I’m on set with the player that I’m translating for, we’re always on standby for around five minutes, so we always tell each other how pretty we look. Such compliments always made my day, and it’s always heartwarming to receive such compliments. We always talked about taking a selfie through the screen, but it hasn’t happened yet, so hopefully, it’ll happen soon.
The people I spend the most time with are the on-site KR-CN translators. They’re very good people, and always share things with me. On the first or second day of Worlds, things were very hectic, and when I told them that I didn’t eat the whole day, they invited me to their rooms to share snacks!
They also help me with the delivery, and since you can literally order anything through the delivery apps, even things like cosmetics and contact lenses, it comes to my room in 20 minutes! They allowed me to register for the app using their phone numbers, so I ordered a lot of food and drinks through the app [laughter]. The two of them helped me tremendously in making my life much more convenient, and since there’s a huge language barrier for me here, I don’t know how I would’ve survived here without them. I’m very grateful. One of the translators, Marie, is a huge Gen.G fan, so when they got knocked out, she cried a lot on the way back to our hotel.
What is the one biggest thing that you miss from this year’s Worlds compared to previous years?
It would definitely be the fact that a lot of people couldn’t be here in person, fans and personnel included, right? Due to COVID, the whole process of making this tournament happen was not easy at all, and while the tournament is running smoothly given our situation, the atmosphere on-site is also much tenser than the previous years.
The fan interaction is a huge part of what makes esports so great. Last year, when I was at the LEC studios, I snuck into the crowd to get a high five from the players [laughter[! I watched the DAMWON players last year do the high fives, and I figured that I’d have enough time to get the high five and run back to do my interviews, so that was a lot of fun. Such moments seemed trivial back then, but I missed those moments a lot this year. Worlds is a rare opportunity for the fans to see their favorite teams in action, so it must be very disappointing for the fans this year.
On interviewing players: the best, the most fun, and the most memorable
As someone that’s been following the LCK for a long time, it seems that your ability to interview and translate improves each year. Does the job just become easier as each year passes?
I continue to monitor various streams and Twitter, and it’s just something I’ve been doing unconsciously. I don’t necessarily sit down to study the various English expressions; I think I just catch onto them naturally. Other than that, since I’m part of the LCK Global cast every day, I listen in on the global casters, read their Tweets, and even try to learn from their use of various expressions when they’re messaging other people.
Whenever I came across expressions that I’m not familiar with, but which were used regularly, I began to write them down on my phone/iPad. It’s a little embarrassing to show these, but I’ll show you.
Such phrases like “Mouse proximity to champions”, to “taking a skill at lvl 1”, are simple, but sometimes, I might not be familiar with them. If I end up using these expressions in my translations/interviews, they tend to stick with me for a long time. They might be simple by western standards, but there’s always something new to learn.
What’s the most memorable/most fun interview that you conducted this year at Worlds?
While I don’t have that many opportunities to interview players during the LCK, Nuguri’s always very immersed in every single interview he does. I always thought highly of his personality. Having interviewed/translated for him during this tournament, not only does he listen to the interview questions very closely, but he always gives detailed answers. He looks at me as if he’s absorbing every single word that I ask him, and he always shares great perspective during his interviews.
When I translated his interview for the English cast, it wasn’t just me that felt Nuguri gave a great interview. The whole interview was done remotely, with Laure on screen from the LEC studios, and after it was over, the LEC producer also thanked him for a great interview. I learned that it wasn’t just me that felt this way about Nuguri. I always talked about how DAMWON players are all very nice and gave very insightful answers during interviews, so I felt very satisfied when Nuguri lived up to the praise I’ve been giving them.
"So I just asked [Tactical] to introduce himself in Korean, and it was really adorable to watch him talk in informal Korean speech. He reminded me of my younger cousin who lives in the US."
Are there any memorable interviews with players from other regions?
Actually, I just remembered one. After Gen.G lost to G2, as an LCK fan, I was pretty sad about Gen.G getting knocked out. However, since it’s all part of the competition, I didn’t want to seem down in front of other players. Although it might be sad to see Korean teams get knocked out, it’s important for me to just accept the loss and not blatantly show how sad you are.
Anyways, after that match, Candice was interviewing Perkz, and I was on standby with Caps for my interview. After Candice finished her interview with Perkz, there was a 10-second interval where Caps and I would get ready for our interview, while the staff would disinfect the mics and whatnot. I was making small talk with Perkz at that time, where I said/asked him things like, “Congratulations! Why are you guys so good?” And he’d just said, “No, no, we were just lucky”, so I told him that G2 played very well, and wished them good luck in their next match.
G2’s press conference came around, and a question was thrown at Perkz about some unfinished business with Ruler, and his answer was, “In general, we felt like we played better and it doesn’t feel like that we got lucky; it feels like we're just the better team”. The interaction with him and I, where he just said what he said to console me, but goes to say what he actually feels at the press conference 20 minutes later, was pretty memorable and funny.
Is there a player that you really wanted to interview at Worlds this year, but couldn’t?
I think I interviewed pretty much all the players I wanted to this year. Actually, this year, I really wanted to interview Tactical from Team Liquid. I also follow a lot of the LCS players on Twitter, so I naturally found Tactical’s Twitter page as well. I saw his real name on there, Edward Ra, and thought to myself, “Ra? Isn’t that a Korean surname?” I was left very curious, because even on Leaguepedia or whatever, it only stated that he’s the bot laner for Team Liquid.
I found out this year that he’s a Korean player. He’s a gyopo [Koreans who live overseas — Ed.], grew up in a Korean household, and speaks a little bit of Korean, so I really wanted to interview him as soon as I can. During the group stages, I’d ask the writers who they’re going to request for interviews, and since Korean imports are more familiar with the LCK fans, players like Impact and CoreJJ are higher in priority. However, I often said to them, “Tactical is Korean, so what do you think about interviewing him?”
"It’s really sad to see any Korean teams get knocked out of the tournament. The players and the staff all rely on other Korean teams, staff, and personnel, and it just feels empty after they leave."
Eventually, I ended up interviewing him for the LCK broadcast, and asked him to speak a little bit of Korean during the interview. He said he was a little bit worried because he felt that his level of Korean is not suited for interviews, but I told him that it’s really okay, and if he’s feeling really pressured, he can just say a couple of phrases, and do the rest of the interview in English.
So I just asked him to introduce himself in Korean, and it was really adorable to watch him talk in informal Korean speech. He reminded me of my younger cousin who lives in the U.S. He was born and raised there, and he was also born in 2000. Whenever I go see him in the States, he’d follow me around, going “Noona! Noona!” [older sister — Ed.].
He’s all grown up now, and he’s become this big guy, but even still, he’s still like a baby to me. Nowadays, whenever I hang out with him at his place, he’d talk with a mix of Korean and English, and be like, “Noona, eomma [mom — Ed.] is a bit late. Noona, are you hungry yet? Noona, do you want sushi?” [laughs] Tactical reminded me so much of my cousin, Woojin, and it was really cute.
On watching the LCK lose (and watching it win)
When LCK teams got eliminated last year, you stated that it felt like you were watching good friends leave. After DRX and Gen.G got eliminated in the quarterfinals this year, does it feel any different?
In terms of this year, it’s really sad to see any Korean teams get knocked out of the tournament. The players and the staff all rely on other Korean teams, staff, and personnel, and it just feels empty after they leave. I’d hang out with the Koreans a lot, whether it’s for coffee or late-night snacks in my room. They’d be there when I was feeling a bit lonely, and to see a large number of people all go home makes me feel empty. DRX players are all very lively, but after DRX lost their series against DWG, it made me really sad to see them very depressed.
"Since the end of June, I predicted that DWG will be winning Worlds. I predicted that they’d win the Summer split, so I tweeted out that they should give them the #1 LCK seed already [laughter]."
As a representative of the LCK yourself, would you like to send a message of support to DWG?
Since the end of June, I predicted that DWG will be winning Worlds. I predicted that they’d win the Summer split, so I tweeted out that they should give them the #1 LCK seed already [laughter]. They seemed untouchable, to the point where nothing I said would jinx them, but I was still very careful with what I said. People would ask me about who I thought would win Worlds, and even then, I just said, “DWG looks great, so I hope they win”. I didn’t want to add onto the hype train behind DWG, because it would just mean more pressure on the players’ shoulders. I wanted others to underestimate them as much as possible.
After interviewing/translating for the team on many different occasions, and even being able to listen to what the coaches were telling the players, the team atmosphere seemed great and felt like the team was operating under great leadership. Everything that the players said seemed full of confidence and reassuring, and the coaching staff felt like they were great mentors, even outside the game. I hope that they continue to work the formula that’s been working for them so far, and win the whole tournament.
“Jeesun, the translator”, and the stress that comes with it
Previously, you stated that you felt pressured since day 1 of your job. Has that pressure been somewhat alleviated? How much of that pressure still exists?
At Worlds 2017, I was with SpoTV, and since OGN was ahead of SpoTV in viewership, I worked out of their studios. Every day, on my way back home, I thought to myself, “I need to do better tomorrow.”
The LCK broadcast went under Riot Korea’s control in 2018, and the SpoTV-OGN audiences merged into one. It was the year that I was on-site to translate, and that was when I really felt the pressure was on me to deliver the messages of the players as precisely as possible to both the Korean and the English audience.
If people thought of me as “just another translator” back then, people now know that it’s Park Jeesun translating. There are a ton of eyes on me to see if I translated well, and if I don’t live up to a certain standard, they’d think that I, Jeesun Park, am a terrible translator. To this day, it’s still very nerve-wracking, and as my identity as “Jeesun Park, the translator” becomes more known to the world, the pressure grows just as big alongside it. I’m always thinking about what I could’ve done better, and look back on the things that I could’ve done better to improve.
"If people thought of me as “just another translator” back then, people now know that it’s Park Jeesun translating. There are a ton of eyes on me to see if I translated well, and if I don’t live up to a certain standard, they’d think that I, Jeesun Park, am a terrible translator."
As a translator, do you have an ironclad philosophy behind the work you do?
Obviously, precision and delivery come first. If you think about this on an individual level, players don’t have that many opportunities to do interviews. They have about three minutes per interview to share their identity and their stories to the world, so I try to not interrupt the players’ answers.
Sometimes, I saw the other translators or hosts request the players to keep it short, or talk slower because they’re nervous. It’s not a bad thing to request the players, but I think that since the players want to have their player brand known, I shouldn’t ask them to shorten their answers for my own convenience. Obviously, I’d have no choice in asking the players to keep their answers shorter if we don’t have too much time, but other than that, I try to not interfere with their answers.
If you can go back in time to Jeesun Park on day 1 of her job, what advice would you give her?
Study lots of English, don’t get ahead of yourself in thinking that you’re this amazing translator because you can speak a bit of English, and talk slower. If you’re on a business trip overseas, don’t oversleep, get up early, and explore different things that the place has to offer. Also, don’t forget to study a lot! [Laughter]
"Working in this field means that you have to be full of talent and passion, and I think it’s easy for the impostor syndrome to kick in, so I always tend to encourage them."
What advice would you like to give to those that aspire to become someone like you in esports?
I think that I can be harsh on myself, because I know where I am in terms of my own abilities. However, to those that aspire a career in this line of work, I tend to encourage them in any way I can. The KR-CN translators that I spoke of earlier are always nervous and seem down after their work is done, so I always told them that they did a good job.
Working in this field means that you have to be full of talent and passion, and I think it’s easy for the impostor syndrome to kick in, so I always tend to encourage them. When the KR-CN translators are translating interviews, they have a headset on to listen into the audio, so I told them to have a notepad out on their phones to take notes. The notes act as a form of insurance to make sure that they don’t forget anything, and will help them not panic in the heat of things. Taking down notes is something that I personally figured out as time went on, and it’ll help tremendously.
As a translator for the LCK, do you have an end goal?
I’ve always been the type of person to live in the moment. I’ve always figured out what my next move is when a situation has presented itself in front of me, and it’s been like that ever since I was in middle school. After my Korean SATs ended, I started playing LoL, and watched all the LCK matches. It was so entertaining, to the point where I rewatched all the classic matches, and that time period was when I first chose a career path for myself, purely out of adoration and passion.
I’m very lucky to be doing what I do for a living, and on a grand scale of things, I could say that I achieved my dream. That being said, I’m at a phase where I’m thinking about my next career steps, and how I can improve myself as a person.
LCK 2021 and beyond
We’re nearing the end of our interview, and before we close off, I want to look a little bit ahead into the 2021 LCK season. LCK is going to be franchised next year, and when I spoke to Valdes and Atlus earlier this year in an interview, they said that they hope to see upgrades to a lot of things, such as having academy casters to having an LCK global analyst desk. Is there anything that you’d like to see implemented on the global side of things?
Apart from translating, I’m in charge of other tasks within the global side of things, and I can say, with confidence, that everyone works incredibly hard. I just hope that more people will give more attention to the LCK Global staff as well. Whenever teams brought their team goods to give the staff at LoL Park, there were many instances where the LCK Global staff were left out. I’m not saying that it’s always the case, as there were people that also took care of us, but there were numerous occasions where we felt left out.
Other than that, I just hope to see more interaction between us and teams. While the interactions can be overlooked during the regular split due to how hectic things are, that dynamic will be very appealing to the Western audience, especially during international events. I believe that such interactions will spark various narratives to make things even more interesting, and will be easier for LCK teams to interact with the Western audience as well.
Thank you so much for the interview, and lastly, is there anything you’d like to say to the fans?
Thank you for all the support and love you’ve given me. There are so many things that I need to improve, yet the support I received in my journey from so many people have been tremendous. I continue to learn a lot, and receive a lot of courage, energy, and passion because of all of you. I apologize in advance if I screw up along the way, so please continue to send your healthy support to LoL Esports, the LCK, and myself.
Striving for perfection to achieve excellence in esports