Jeesun Park: "Our sport binds the world, and I think that’s the most beautiful thing about it."

 

It’s become Inven Global’s annual tradition to sit down with LCK Global’s Jeesun Park during Worlds season. The first time was in 2019 over great Spanish cuisine, enjoying the street views of Madrid. As COVID shut down the world and forced everyone to stay distant, our conversation in 2020 took place remotely.

 

In the midst of all the drastic changes to everyone's lives, the grind for all those involved in producing the World Championship never stopped. For Jeesun, that meant a year of incredible amount of hard work and research that has kept her in top-notch form.

 

We had a chance to talk to Jeesun about how her perspectives changed with her new title of LCK Producer, as well as her most memorable moments from Worlds 2021.


Before we get into the heart of the interview, I want to say congratulations on officially joining Riot Korea as the global PD for LCK Global! How has the grind changed for you since then?

 

Before, I was sort of the assistant to the original producer that was here and I’ve basically taken over the helm. In terms of the work I do as a producer, not really much has changed. I’m now doing the things I’ve always been doing, but on a full-time scale. Whether it’s talent management, scheduling, and implementing new and special segments into the show, I’m in charge of everything behind the LCK Global broadcast.

 

For example, for the 2021 LCK Summer Finals, we had our own pre-show, as well as our own analyst desk for the series. The planning process involved asking a lot of advice from other producers and testing our ideas, and the whole thing was incredibly hard. I’m still learning and gaining experience.

 

It feels like we always end up having interviews whenever Worlds comes around. Please tell us how you’re doing over there so far.

 

Right now, it’s very similar to MSI. Worlds' schedule this year has been more compact than previous years, so it's the first time where I've felt really busy at an international tournament. Before, there was a maximum of six best-of-1 matches in a day, but this year we've had between eight and 10 games on a day. After the day, I'd be like, “I’m going to just lie down for like 5 minutes”, then proceed to wake up the next day.

 

This year, games also started much earlier in the day. From what I remember, the games would usually start around the afternoon, but this year, they started at like 11 a.m., which meant that call time was at 9-10 a.m. It made me go to bed and wake up a lot earlier, so I felt that this year’s group stage was especially hectic. Originally, I was going to spend some time exercising and studying English more regularly, but I couldn’t, since I’d be out of energy by the end of the day. It was only when I got used to the schedule that things started to go the way I planned.

 

 

I’ve heard about players going to see the Aurora in Iceland as well. Have you had a chance to see them as well?

 

There’s this tour package that takes you to go see the Aurora, so I went with the people that came to Iceland for Worlds. We borrowed a van and hired an expert guide that was looking up data on where the Aurora would be and taking us to the spots where there would be one. The expert drove us to places that were in the middle of nowhere, like forests and stuff, and if we couldn’t see one from one spot, the guide would calculate the next spot and take us there.

 

It was from 10 p.m. to 2a.m., and in the last spot that we were at, I saw this very white, vine-like thing in the night sky. Apparently, that was the Aurora, so everyone was confused whether or not that was the real thing. We were told that we can see it properly if we took photos of it on night mode, so when we took them, the aurora that we all know showed up. I went with about 10 other people and they all said that it was pretty underwhelming. One person on the tour had a DSLR camera and the Aurora looked incredible in those pictures.

 

In the spots that we went to, there were so many stars in the night sky, almost to the point where it was grossly too much. They looked like they were all about to fall from the sky. So after the tour, I asked the others that also saw it and most of them told me that they saw the same thing. That’s when I realized that a lot of natural conditions have to align to actually witness the Aurora that we all expect.

 

"As a translator, I thought, 'Wait, did I hear him correctly? Did Bdd just say that Cloud9 were bad?'"

 

Whenever we chat, you’ve always had some fun behind-the-scenes player stories. Is there any that you can share with us this time around?

 

It’s definitely the Bdd interview that everyone’s been talking about, and it’s one that kept reminding itself to me in my head. I received Bdd’s Worlds jersey as a gift from Gen.G, so I asked him if we can do a back pose at the end of our interview. He said sure, so we finished the interview on the LCK broadcast well.

 

Then we did the broadcast interview on Riot’s main stream as well with Sjokz. Korean players are more humble and reserved when it comes to interviews, but one of the first things that Bdd said was, “I don’t think Cloud9 are a good team, so I don’t think we won by playing well.” As a translator, I thought, “Wait, did I hear him correctly? Did Bdd just say that Cloud9 were bad?” It was very different from his interviews back in the LCK, so taking into consideration what he’s usually like, I tried to make it sound more like it was coming from him in English.

 

Towards the end of that interview, his answer made Perkz eat his own words [from the teaser video]. My jaw just dropped to the floor to hear him be so bold in interviews: it was fresh and left one hell of an impression. It was a good move from Bdd, and it's great for players to shape their brand and character that way.

 

Over the many years of interviewing Bdd, he's always been humble and has stayed away from banter. However, with that interview, he was truly "All in".

 

 

One of the interviews that were just funny from a visual perspective was your interview with Fudge because of how physically big he was on screen when standing next to you. Tell me, is he really that big in person?

 

He was HUGE. From Cloud9, Zven, Vulcan, and Fudge were really tall. When I first saw Fudge, I was like, “He’s a big dude”; the producer on-site then immediately proceeded to ask me, “Do you need an apple box [to stand on]?” [Laughter] I kindly declined his offer, but when I was interviewing him, I was almost looking straight up just to see his face.

 

What about with the hosts from other regions [Candice, Laure, Sjokz, Wendy]? You must’ve been very excited to reunite with them on-site.

 

Between us, there’s no sense of competition. We’re always very supportive of one another in everything we do, especially when it comes to the tasks given to us. We’re always sharing information on various things, with the goal of elevating each other. It’s very heartwarming.

 

For example, we’re always talking about the players’ personalities, what kind of mood they may be in at that moment and other things that will help us conduct better interviews. These moments are a learning experience because I learn that all of us have a lot in common, even with all the cultural differences. We’re also always taking care of each other, giving things that will help keep our health up through the event. It was especially so this year, and my relationship with them is very precious.

 

Speaking of this year, I feel that there’s more positivity in the air. When I had that appreciation thread tweeted at me by Ashley Kang, I didn’t know what to do at first, because it was all too sudden. In the midst of my confusion, the girls started to praise me a lot and told me that I’ve done such great work. I was very emotional.

 

F.l.t.r.: Laure, Candice, Jeesun, Sjokz at Worlds 2018. Source: Riot Games

 

Last year, there was only one LCK team in the semifinals. This year, there were three. First, can I safely assume that your workload has increased? How do you feel watching all the LCK teams do so well at Worlds this year?

 

I didn’t calculate this, but It felt like I barely conducted interviews in English this year. There are especially more Korean players across most of the teams this year, so in terms of the broadcast, putting priority on interviewing Korean players makes sense. This made me incredibly busy, because I was first conducting the interviews, then I’d have to translate for the players’ interviews with the press, which turned into press conferences from quarters. It was a good feeling for me, though. Seeing so many Korean players do so well in the tournament was definitely a boost to my pride. 

 

In 2019, three LCK teams made it into the quarterfinals, but in the end, SKT T1 were the only team to make it into the semis. So when all four LCK teams made it to the quarterfinals, I told myself, “Let’s not get my hopes up.” It gets lonely when all the people you came with all leave due to getting knocked out. This year, however, it feels like LCK’s untouchable, just like they were in the 2015-2017 supremacy era.

 

It feels good. Worlds is a tournament that also determines the region’s strengths, and to see LCK just dominate across the board is a very exciting sign. This will mean that there will be more people tuning into LCK Global [laughter].

 

Thinking back, in 2018, I was basically working for the LPL. So the rule is, if there’s a Korean speaking player, then there will always be work that I have to do. At the time, TheShy, Rookie, and Duke were all on the roster, so I was their personal translator until the finals. I remember thinking, “Thank God there’s still some work left to do!”. Тhere’s almost too much work for me to do, so it feels really good.

 

 

It must feel especially nostalgic for you to see T1 return to Worlds semifinals, because in 2019, you witnessed them getting knocked out at the semifinals. Did it bring nostalgia in a way to see them make it?

 

It reminded me of what an incredible organization they are. Except for EDG this year, all the other teams in the semifinals have experienced what it’s like to become world champions in the past. Teams that have once climbed to great heights know what to do to climb even higher, so the chances are higher for them.

 

From first coming onto the scene as a translator that was working hard to find her place to becoming the producer for LCK Global, what does the LCK mean to you?

 

LCK helped me find not just a career, but a dream. To be honest, I was just a normal person. I studied in school because I had to. Even with things like university majors, I just studied for mine because it was allocated to me based on the probability of finding a job. I wasn’t really motivated in university, and studying just… I couldn’t really focus on it.

 

"I didn’t have goals like working in a huge company like Samsung or becoming a news anchor or whatever. League of Legends helped me find a path."

 

Looking back, I think it was burnout. For 12 years, I’ve had to take a test before entering each school, whether that was university or even middle school. I didn’t want to study, so I actually skipped a lot of school. That’s when I started playing League of Legends.

 

I was just a player at first, but naturally, my eyes turned to the competitive scene. I’d always look up videos of Korean pro matches, back from the OGN days. When I first started watching them, I didn’t get the humor behind why what the casters said made the audience laugh, nor did I get why the audience cheered for hype gameplay.

 

My inability to understand those things bloomed a certain drive in me. I wanted to understand what it’s like to be in the audience’s shoes and the key points that make them act certain ways. I remember watching almost all the VODs during one winter vacation, and the more I watched these VODs, the more it made me want to work in this field.

 

It was the first time that made me really motivated to work. I didn’t have goals like working in a huge company like Samsung or becoming a news anchor or whatever. League of Legends helped me find a path. I would even say it was a dream to work in the field, and it felt like a dream that came true when I started working for the LCK.

 

Now that I’m ‘officially’ part of the LCK, I feel more responsible. Things that happen in the LCK always turn out to be viral, so I have to always be that much more focused.

 

Although Worlds is not over just yet, what is the one noteworthy lesson you’ve learned from this year’s tournament?

 

You always have to be diligent. The Bdd interview, for example, if I didn’t watch that teaser video before their series against C9, I would’ve been very confused as to why he said what he said. It’s important to always do your research. 

 

Even though I tried to watch a lot of analytical videos on experts trying to predict the Worlds meta, the Play-in stages were very different from what they said. There are questions that I couldn’t answer on my own, especially when it comes to champion picks, so I’m always asking the game observers questions. 

 

I have to study not just the game, but English as well, especially when it comes to slang. If you account for the amount of slang that players use, it’s actually quite a lot. I first have to know what it means, the English version of it, then apply it in the right places.

 

When players say things like “쩐다” [great, sick, awesome — Ed.], it’d be bland for me to just say, “Oh, that’s crazy!” I would hear the younger generation use the term, "bussin", so I’ve been kinda hooked on that phrase for a while. I also just blurt out Twitch emotes, saying things like "5Head play" and what not [laughter]. I put in the work to live young and stay young. I have to keep up with the younger generation because that’s the majority of my audience. Keeping up with recent trends is crucial.

 

 

As the producer for LCK Global, what are some of the new ways that you want to reach out to the global community, both as a host and as PD?

 

COVID shut the world down, and just like everyone else, it sucked for our league as well. We were forced to stay distant, and while I dearly missed the IRL aspect of the work, I also learned to appreciate how technology was able to create those bridges.

 

Truth be told, when it comes to putting on an English broadcast in Korea, there are certain limits. The prerequisite for the on-air talent had to be someone that lives in Korea, so there was a decent level of difficulty when it comes to creating plans for the show or finding the right cast. During the pandemic, the LCK Global casters had to broadcast from home for a long time, so I had this idea of using remote broadcasting as an opportunity to bring on a more variety of guests. The costs will go down, and while we’d love to have our own space to set up for our segments, bringing on guests remotely makes the process a lot easier.

 

I've always wanted LCK Global to have its own analyst desk. However, it’s not easy to find someone that lives in Korea to be in that segment, and if we actually casted someone overseas and brought them here, the whole process would be incredibly long.

 

Right now, I’m just translating what the Korean desk is saying, and I firmly believe that the information from the Korean analyst desk is not suited for our target audience. There’s also the chance that information can get lost in translation because I’m not perfect. As far as I know, the LPL has their foreign talent doing things remotely, including their analyst desk, so I think that the recipe can also work for us.

 

 

With COVID restrictions finally starting to slowly lift up in Korea, there are high hopes for the audience to return on-site as well. What’s the one thing you’re looking forward to the most?

 

The whole experience gets elevated when there’s cheering and roaring in the crowd, so I can’t wait for the audience to be filled with such sounds. Looking back on it, it was really cool to see the crowd react the same way through the game, even with language and cultural barriers. When I was in Spain for Worlds, the stadium was incredibly loud with fans cheering; same thing in China, Korea, the States.

 

Our sport binds the world, and I think that’s the most beautiful thing about it. I’m looking forward to everyone’s viewing experience being more dynamic.

 

Lastly, what would you like to say to those that have continued to support you?

 

I’m truly grateful for all the support that the community is sending me. At the same time, I’m humbled and reminded of just how much responsibility I have on my shoulders, so I sometimes feel that I’m somehow getting away with all of it, rather than performing great. I’m always grateful for everyone that tunes in, despite the time zone differences.

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