Eight years as a pro in three different regions. From the LCK, to CBLOL, LMS, and LCS. Kim "Olleh" Joo-sung had been around the world, playing in many different teams. Now he's putting himself to an ultimate test to return as a player in the LCK. It's been about a month since Olleh announced that he's a free agent and that he's looking for a team. Since then, he’s returned to Korea and is grinding solo queue.
After his return to Korea, Olleh had to be quarantined for 14 days. He showed up for the interview excited and chatty. With a few drinks and KBBQ, for more than three hours, and Olleh never stopped talking.
Returning as a player, taking a challenge
“I did tweet that I was a free agent, but that was to motivate myself more for another challenge. I want to test my passion for the game and overcome the aging curve. What feels really positive for me, though, is that I didn’t play a single game of League of Legends in the past four months. I just played TFT before returning to Korea, but after I started playing [LoL], I rose really quickly to Grand Master. It feels really positive that I still have the fundamentals.
If I could join a team, with some luck, it would be amazing. I wouldn’t even aim for the spring season — if I could join an LCK team by summer, I would consider my challenge a success. Most of the LCK rosters are already completed, so there may be a chance during the season if there’s a team that suddenly requires another support.
Another positive thing for me is that the new items suit me really well. From what I remember, I was one of the most aggressive support players in the world. I think it was back in 2017, I was 40% points above the average support damage. The second place was about 20% points above the average, and that was Mikyx. The current meta seems perfect for me as well.
Rather than announcing that I’m returning as a player, I want to test myself. I re-found my passion for the game while playing solo queue here. I have my own standard that I can keep as a pro. That standard was hitting first place in solo queue when I was an import. What I thought was if I’m an import, I have to hit the top to deserve what the teams give me, so I did that and hit first at least once in those servers. I’m quite sure that I could hit No.1 again in the regions I’ve been in, but I’m not as confident for the KR server. So that’s the test I’m giving myself. I wonder how high I could get here.
"I want to test my passion for the game and overcome the aging curve."
The highest priority is to join an LCK team. The reason is that I really want to try making shotcalls in Korean. Recently, I played in a few scrims as interim support for amateur teams. It was so convenient. I was able to make much more precise and detailed shotcalls without much effort. For example, I could say, “I’ll rush in here. Watch if you could TP. If the situation isn’t good, stay, but if it’s good, come.” In English, this turns into, “Hey TP ready, look here”. My English improved so much over the years, but as much as it’s not my first language, there’s still a limit to my expressions. That’s why I really want to know how it would be to make shotcalls in Korean.
Also, when I was in Brazil, Crown was there too. After Crown returned to Korea, he joined Samsung and won Worlds. Back then, I thought maybe I could do that too. I wanted to play at least once in a Korean team before I retire.
I understand that there are a lot of prospects coming up. I was a coach for a short period of time, and even I would pick younger prospects unless the older veteran players have clear merit over the prospects. That’s why I need to prove myself through solo queue.
"I’m quite sure that I could hit No.1 again in the regions I’ve been in, but I’m not as confident for the KR server."
Whichever team reaches out to me, if I were to join an LCK team, I’ll really work with my life. I’m confident that I could play more games than any other player even if I’m the oldest player. Since I’m a positive and optimistic person, I could set a “can do” atmosphere within the team. As a veteran player, I could set a great example for the younger players as well.
If I’m to face the facts, I didn’t show anything this year. I returned after taking a break, and all I could do to prove myself is my performance. I’m working as if I’m back to the days when I had just graduated from high school — I had no career and all I could trust was my ability. The first test is to see how high I could reach in that situation. After that, my goal is to join an LCK team. If I fail? Well, what could I do? I have to join the army. [Laughs]
Green card, military service
“Golden Guardians solved the problem of the green card and permanent residency for me. When I left Dignitas, GGS contacted and told me, “Hey, do you know your green card was approved?” and gave me a letter along with the last paycheck. I had never thought of my green card getting approved. If I had known, my life may have gone in a different direction. All the difficult things were taken care of by GGS and all I had to do was file for a date. I wanted to talk to my parents first.
Around that time, a Korean variety show, “Fake Men”, was popular. Watching that, I began thinking of having to join the military. I was at a crossroad, having to make a decision between going back to Korea to join the army, or stay in the US and live there forever. It wasn’t an easy decision as much as it’s really difficult to obtain a green card. While I was trying to make up my mind, COVID-19 spread and my parents told me to stay in the States until it was safe to come back to Korea.
So for the first time in my career, I had a complete break from professional League of Legends. I started my professional career almost as soon as I graduated from high school — I had been running for almost eight years. During that time, I thought about what I really wanted to do, if I want to keep playing professional League of Legends or start something new.
"I was at a crossroad, having to make a decision between going back to Korea to join the army, or stay in the US and live there forever."
I tried several different things. I tried working out, read books, watched movies… I tried getting rid of wearing glasses, wearing contact lenses, but it felt awkward. It felt that something was missing. I felt that I’m not me. There was nothing I was obligated to do, so I just played TFT for a while.
Since going out was kind of dangerous because of the pandemic, I just read books and stayed inside, watching “Fake Men”. That was what really made me decide to return to Korea. Even if I had a green card, there were people who even had citizenships that enlisted for their military service. That made me think, ‘Why do I have to try to avoid going to the army?’ After deciding that I’ll return and do my service, I wanted to go to the toughest troop possible. Maybe not as tough as they do in Fake Men, though. What they do looks insane.
They say if I apply at thе embassy, my green card can be maintained since the world is going through a major crisis. I’m not sure if I would go back, though. My first two years in the US were quite amazing, it felt like I was fulfilling my “American dream”, but from the third year, it just felt normal.”
Korean solo queue, NA solo queue
“What I wanted to do most after returning to Korea was play solo queue. The solo queue in the NA is really… Doesn’t everyone say that? To exaggerate, the KR solo queue players have really good mechanics already from Gold and up. About half of them have weak mentalities to climb more, and the other half just fight all the time. Even some players in Silver have the mechanics to solo-kill Faker.
But when I play solo queue in the NA, I make solo kills playing support. I roam mid, kill them, and return. Obviously, I can do nothing like that in Korea. The champions in the NA solo queue look small and weak. In the KR solo queue, if an Akali is 3/0/0, she’s scary even if she’s just standing there. The moment she hits level 11, I start to tremble. But in NA solo queue, an Akali with 8 kills would make a mistake. Three deaths in the KR solo queue would usually translate to a loss, but there’s nothing like that in the NA.
"It felt that something was missing. I felt that I’m not me. There was nothing I was obligated to do"
When I reached high-elo solo queue in NA, there were so many pro players. CoreJJ and Tactical duo’d a lot this year and Zven and Vulcan as well. In high-elo, I always met one of those duos. I didn’t have my own ADC since I wasn’t in a team, and I would be assigned a random ADC from Master. It was really difficult to play since Zven was making kills whenever I roamed around. After dropping a bit from those losses, I’d again be queued with players I don’t know at all.
In the NA, only the players that play solo queue play solo queue. Even with the pros. There are at least 50 pro players in the NA, but it feels that only about 25 of them play solo queue, and there would be maybe 10-15 people who really grind it. The other 35, I seldom meet.
Usually, on days before official games, we look up our opponents’ OP.GG. If we were to look up CoreJJ, there would be so many games. 6-2 record on Nautilus, 8-4 on Galio, and so on. But some players from some teams would have four games over the whole week. We would be dumbfounded and try to track down alternate accounts of that player, but we would just find out that he really didn’t play any other games on any other accounts.
"Even some players in Silver have the mechanics to solo-kill Faker."
The recent scrim rule change also kind of made me angry as well. They start at noon, play five games, and that’s it. After that, they all go home. At first, I was looking forward to meeting them in solo queue, but they just play other games when they go home. In Korea, the really “fun” games start after midnight. The players all gather and play solo queue, but it was completely different in the NA. You always meet the same people — CoreJJ, C9 bot duo, PoE… And then, when the clock strikes midnight, there are no games. Literally no one plays. When do all the other players play?
I felt a sort of tension when I played solo queue back when I was in Korea. When I went to Brazil, I spread that to other people there. In Taiwan as well. With that tension, when I joined Immortals, I hit No.1 there in solo queue and went to Worlds right away. But starting from maybe my third year, I felt myself getting loose. Even when I played solo queue, my opponent support would play something like Brand or maybe a Janna one-trick with 1,200 games on it. On OP.GG, the Korean players only play meta supports in high-elo. So my patience ran out with NA solo queue.
In the KR solo queue, there are so many things that I learn. When I play Thresh, I pick Aftershock, but here, some players carry the team while using Predator. If I were in a comic, I would have an exclamation mark on top of my head watching that. In NA, they only use the runes that are said to be good. Here, they make their own rune combinations.
"When I was young, I used to be one of those people who made the meta."
When I was young, I used to be one of those people who made the meta. I was the only person that played Nami when Mata and Heart friended me on the client and asked me for tips. A few weeks later, they were winning the championship with that Nami. When I was in the NA, I found myself looking up what they play on the Korean server. Frankly, I can win without runes in the NA. I could win with Electrocute Thresh… These were the biggest factors that I wanted to play solo queue in Korea.
KR solo queue is really amazing. I was matched with Faker today. In the NA, teams that have more pro players win 80% of the time. Amateurs get intimidated by the pro players’ nicknames. Here, if people see “Hide on bush”, they madly try to solo kill him and try to beat him at all costs."
People, acquaintances, and getting rich on the stock market
“I’m blessed with acquaintances. One of the biggest ones was meeting Seth King [Achilios] when I was in Hong Kong Esports. After my contract was terminated, [Immortals founder] Noah Whinston called me out of nowhere. He said that Seth was the one who recommended me. At that time, I had no connections with any NA teams. My short conversation with Seth brought me to the NA.
I usually don’t go up to people and start talking to them, but if they start a conversation, I get really into it. Sometimes, those conversations lead to valuable information. I heard about bitcoins when I was in Immortals. They were less than $1,000 back then, but I didn’t believe them and didn’t buy any. I’m really regretting that now. Other than that, I heard a few things in stocks, and I made a lot.
It really felt empty after making a lot of money from stocks. I tried shopping luxury brands, but I wasn’t that into it. I thought of buying a car, but there was nowhere to go. When I asked my mom, she told me to buy real estate. I just left it to her after that.
Since I left Korea nearly as soon as I graduated from high school, I don’t have that many acquaintances in Korea. I want to meet more people here. I don’t know that many people in this scene. As much as I don’t know anybody, I can’t really call someone up and ask them to pick me on their team, nor do I want to do that.
"It really felt empty after making a lot of money from stocks. I tried shopping luxury brands, but I wasn’t that into it. I thought of buying a car, but there was nowhere to go."
Besides people in the scene, I want to try streaming with some famous streamers. There are so many things that I could say in Korean. Even if I were to use an interpreter, I wouldn’t be able to deliver what I say in the nuance I said it. This was what I think whenever I stream in English, so I want to say all that I want in my own language.
I also need to visit my high school math teacher, who always trusted me and cheered for me. I still can’t forget her saying, “I think Joo-sung will be the most successful person in this classroom.” Those words from her really gave me courage and I’ll never be able to forget.”
“Everything keeps changing so fast recently. AI is getting developed more and more as we speak, and VR tech is beyond imagination. I tend to read the flow quite well. This goes with why I became a pro gamer. I used to study to become a doctor when I was in high school, but when I was offered to become a pro gamer, I thought it’s a great chance. I could return to school if I fail there. I never knew it would go this long and have me fly around the world. When I come back from the army, I think I’ll be looking at how the flow is.
"When I say I’m done is when I’m really done. There are still a few more steps I could attempt."
Sure, I did consider becoming a coach. I had a short tenure as a coach in Golden Guardians and I learned a lot from Cain. Cain really plays a lot of solo queue. If I were to become a coach, I want to become like him. Among all the coaches, I learned the most from him. It feels that Cain plays LoL like Go. When the opponent does something wrong, he’d be like, “Oh, he cornered himself” and plays so that the opponent can’t respond. I learned the specifics, the textbook from him that I only kind of felt from instinct. After understanding what he taught me, the game became much easier.
I’d also like to try commentating in Korea. I’m quite close with Wadid. When he commentates on the LCK Korean broadcast, he really speaks sternly. I thought it might be a bit too much, but a lot of fans enjoyed his commentary. You know, they say, if EU has Wadid, NA has Olleh. [Laughs] I think it’ll be fun to be on that desk. I think I’ll be milder than Wadid. Rather than criticizing, I’ll try to discuss things to improve the situation.
If I were to establish an esports team? I do only what I truly love. If I do, I’ll probably put my everything into it. I did think that I would like to have my own company if I succeed, whether it’s a gaming company or a general business. I’ll probably reinvest all revenues into the company.”
To the fans
“I communicated a lot with foreign fans. I’ve even done an AMA on Reddit. I’d like to say that I’m always grateful for their love and their support.
I’m not that known to Korean fans. I’m not looking forward to becoming famous to them, but I’d like to see where I could reach. There were so many people that retired this year. Doublelift, Crown, Kami — who was the mid laner when I was in Brazil… All those retirements really got to me. It felt that retiring was the meta of my generation. I’ve been playing for eight years and there’s nearly no one left.
"All those retirements really got to me. It felt that retiring was the meta of my generation."
It’s my last stand now. I don’t want to say that I can’t. My goal is to do the best of my best, and if I fail, I want to say that it was fun and retire. Ambition transitioned to a jungler and won Worlds when he was quite old. He’s a great example for players who are worrying about the aging curve.
I really want to try playing in the LCK. When I say I’m done is when I’m really done. There are still a few more steps I could attempt.”