In February of 2015, a young player from Najin e-mFire showed up. He boasted his debut along with 8 months of being a practice member, and solo rank no.1. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to show his full potential on the team. His official record was 7 wins and 10 losses. This was considerably good, for a rookie.
Soon, this rookie joined ROX Tigers. He was reunited with Kim “Ssong” Sang-soo, who first led him to Najin e-mFire. That year, he became the champion of the LCK and KeSPA cup, and went up to the semifinals in that year’s Worlds, solidifying his name in the memory of LoL fans; that name is Han “Peanut” Wang-ho. However, his stay at ROX Tigers ended at just 1 year, and he went to the world’s best team, SKT T1.
All LoL fans’ were watching Peanut. If he could grasp the Summoner's Cup, there would be no doubt of him being the world’s best jungler. Unfortunately, reality was cruel. Although he won the spring season and MSI, criticizing voices rose as he was cut off, leaving him as the runner-up at the summer season and Worlds.
Being 2nd place in the world isn’t a title easily earned, but the expectations for SKT T1 were higher than that. This was simply too much for this young 20-year-old to handle; he had too much pressure on him, an amount he hadn’t experienced in previous teams. As a result, he left SKT T1 as his contract expired. Peanut looked back at his career and talked about why he left the team.
“I took some time to rest after Worlds, and coach Kang Dong-hun called me after my contract expired with SKT T1. I could have looked for foreign teams, but I wanted to play in Korea so I refused before even hearing any offers [from foreign teams]. I think I wanted to win at Worlds, since I lost at the finals.
As soon as I entered the team house, I got the impression that the atmosphere was very lively. I already knew Beom-hyeon (GorillA) and Jong-in (PraY), and the other teammates were overly friendly so I was able to fit in quickly.
It really hasn’t been long, but my teammates were impressive. When we had scrimmages, I found ways I could help Dong-ha (Khan), Bo-seong (Bdd) and Kwang-hee (Rascal). These teammates had certain areas that they didn’t know as much about. It was surprising that they made such good results without being thoroughly prepared.
Of course, I was worried about hurting their pride, since this is the first time we’re playing together. But everyone had the will to perform better, so we talked about each others’ problems very bluntly and frankly. We tried to develop [our skills] through the feedback.”
Just as Peanut said, Longzhu reached out for him first. As Longzhu realized the lack of experience at this year’s Worlds, they needed a player with a lot of experience, and head coach Kang Dong-hun moved quickly and took in Peanut.
Fans were thrilled with the news of the transfer. The fans who still missed ROX Tigers cheered for the reunion of the PrillA duo and Peanut. Soon after, some unpleasant rumors began following Peanut like a shadow; people were saying that he didn’t leave and was actually released by SKT T1 due to a feud.
“We ended the discussion on the contract in good terms. During the 5 days when I was looking for a new team, there was so much gossip on community websites. I thought that I would get tortured with insults whether I win or lose. The important thing was that SKT T1 made up most of my career, and I learned many things there.
The results weren’t too good. We were good at the spring season and MSI so we won, but we weren’t good enough afterwards. It was my fault. Especially round 2 of the summer season; that was the worst.”
Since he carried the high expectations of being SKT T1’s jungler, criticism against Peanut didn’t loosen up. The critics went further and started scorning his previous career, and pointed out that he didn’t have what was needed to win. Peanut showed confidence by saying “Being 2nd place means that there’s a high possibility of winning.”
“There were only two mistakes I made at the KeSPA Cup. One was dying in the 5th set trying to penetrate with Lee Sin, but this didn’t affect the game much. But we lost the 2nd set because I lost my cool, and started making mistakes. I wasn’t able to sleep after losing like that (Laughs). 4 competitions in a row in 2nd place…. But I’m still confident since I got to the finals in all of this year’s competitions, and being 2nd place means that there’s a high possibility of winning. So I don’t mind all the harsh words directed at me.
I will definitely make improvements, and I have a lot up my sleeve to help out Longzhu Gaming. It was a bit regretful not being able to win the KeSPA Cup, which closed the door to this year, but I have a more intense desire to learn, so I’m happy enough.”
Peanut briefly looked back at his career. Reflecting his year, he seemed to be thinking of Najin e-mFire and ROX Tigers as well as SKT T1. He started talking about ‘learning’ after that moment of thought. We were able to hear about the life of a professional gamer, and the life of Han Wang-ho.
“While I was in Najin e-mFire, I didn’t have much time to play in competitions, so I was busy learning. As I joined ROX Tigers, it felt like I knew everything to this world. I think I had the thing that people said I needed to ‘win’. And since my other teammates had more experience, the environment was set for me to become better.
Back then, I was good all year, and I thought that ‘It’s simple, I can be good all the time just like now.’ Thinking back on that, what the elders said was all true. Coach Park Jung-seok always said that nothing in life is certain. I felt that to the bone this year.
Next year will be my 4th year already as a professional, and everybody is surprised when they hear that. Now that there are a lot of younger players, I start to tease them by starting sentences with “When I was your age-“(Laughs). Of course, I’m still young too, but looking at myself playing in a new team for just a bit and yet adapting quickly to the environment made me feel like a veteran.
And…. What do I want to say? I think I was blessed to meet good people. Coach Park Jung-seok, Jeong No-chul (NoFe), Kim Sang-soo (Ssong), Choi Byeong-hun (cCarter) and Kim Jeong-gyun (kkOma). The coaching staff always looked after me even outside of matches. And I think that there’s a lot to learn from the current coaches since all of them have so much experience.
The most impressive player I’ve ever met was Sang-hyeok (Faker). Everybody probably wonders ‘what is that man like when he plays games’. I had the chance to learn from him being together in SKT T1, he has some kind of aura that makes him different from others.”
What he said wasn’t long, but we were able to see that Peanut felt and learned many things from his past, and he was thankful. Now the only thing left for him to do is be recognized as one of the best by all. To do so, he wants to grab hold of that Summoner’s Cup, and Longzhu Gaming is one of the best contenders to make that desire a reality.
“When I first went to the team house, Dong-ha (Khan) called me ‘master’. After I died to a jungle monster, he warned me that if I still want to be called master, I can’t do stuff like that. He always said that it’s the jungler’s fault if the top laner doesn’t perform well. There’s no reason for the jungler to perform badly (Laughs).
I actually thought Dong-ha (Khan) would have a strong personality, but he actually is very mild and easygoing. He respects his teammates’ advice and tries hard to fix his weaknesses. And Kwang-hee (Rascal) is really close with Dong-ha, so there’s great synergy between them. I’ve never seen such competition in a position in my career.
And Bo-seong (Bdd) is just really good. It’s hard to express why he is good; there are still many things that he doesn’t know, but he’s good. I took a long time to fix my flaws to become good, but Bo-seong improves almost instantly after getting feedback.
Lastly, there’s something I want to say to the fans. Normally I always say ‘Thank you’. I do feel sorry for always saying the same thing over and over again, but this is what I really feel towards you, and that’s why I express it. I was thankful for the support of the fans while I was having a hard time, and I thought that I should be good, thinking of all those fans that cheer me on. I want to make fans out of the people who don’t like me as well. I really will do my best to accomplish that.
I thought a lot about my career and the past through this interview. I’m thankful for everyone that gave me advice; that became the blood and flesh of the man named Han Wang-ho. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them, and I wouldn’t even have had the chance to say so. I am a really lucky man.”