There have been many changes in the NA LCS during the offseason. Its name was changed to LCS as one thing and several very decorated players like Bae “Bang” Jun-sik or Jo “CoreJJ” Yong-in joined the league.
There were many roster moves within the league as well; one of the people who went through the biggest change during this offseason would be Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung. He left Team Liquid who won both NA LCS titles in 2018 and joined Golden Guardians who finished 10th in both those splits.
Although Olleh might not have expected the sudden change, he was still bright and energetic. Moving to a team that has no one that speaks his mother language, he seemed excited to speak Korean and talk about his thoughts.
While most of the Korean players in the LCS went back to Korea during the holidays, Olleh stayed in the US, grinding many, many hours into solo queue. He provided some spare time to talk to me about the changes during the offseason.
Thanks for sparing your time for me, Olleh. How have you been?
Thanks for having me. I’ve been playing A LOT of solo queues lately.
You most recently competed at the World Championship in South Korea. How was it?
Frankly, I thought we would have good results. I thought that KT would beat EDG no matter what and that we could beat them too, so I expected to reach at least the round of 8. But KT lost to them. When we were watching the KT match after we lost, it seemed that we could have won.
There were situations where I saw a chance to engage, but I didn’t go in right away; I asked the team, “Should I go in?” but they didn’t give me a definite answer, so I didn’t. After the match, coach Cain told me that if I saw something, I should do it and that it’s not something the teammates decide for me. After watching the VODs, I had many regrets. I guess the whole Worlds was quite regretful for me.
How would you rate yourself out of 10 for your individual performance at Worlds?
I would give myself a four. There were moments that I thought I should do something during the games, but I questioned myself during those situations. I thought that if I do this and it goes wrong, I would be fully responsible.
When you play in a team for a while and you’ve earned the trust of your team, you can do that, but at some point, it was so hard to make those decisions. I think I was lacking confidence; when we first started to boot camp in Korea, I was very confident, but after the competition started, it was difficult to maintain that confidence.
Actually, four is a high score to give myself. I said four because we won three games; I would have said one if we won only one or two games.
You said in a previous interview that the Korean people would recognize Doublelift more than they recognize you.
When people saw Doublelift, they all just took out their phones, but when I walked around, I just blend in. No one recognized me. (Laughs) In other countries, some people recognize me, but since no one does in Korea, I feel at ease. In the US, people come up to me from time to time in restaurants and ask me, “Are you Olleh?” and I would say, “Yeah, it’s me.” and take pictures with them.
After Worlds, you parted ways with Team Liquid and joined Golden Guardians. Can you walk us through the process?
What Team Liquid wanted was since they won NA LCS two splits in a row, they thought that they’ll win NA no matter what, and what Steve wanted was to have success in the international stages as well. So that’s why they signed CoreJJ who is more decorated and has more experience. As for mid lane, they brought in Jensen who gave the best performance at Worlds amongst the NA mid laners; I think Team Liquid wanted to strengthen the parts they thought was the weakest.
Personally, I think I lost points because I wasn’t as good in the international stages even if I won two splits in the NA LCS. As a matter of fact, not that many teams reached out to me that actively. There were about three teams that seemed interested. So I even thought about taking a break in Academy.
You know, Team Liquid offered me a spot in Academy, so I thought it wouldn’t be bad to play there, streaming and studying English, but when I talked to some other pro gamer friends and Flame, they mostly advised me that I should still play in the LCS. Then Golden Guardians reached out to me and told me that they need a support, and that they need somebody to lead a rookie bot laner. What I told them was that I need to win it all, and I joined them because they said they’re gathering the players that can.
Weren’t you disappointed at Team Liquid’s moves?
Honestly, I understand. After winning Spring, we went to MSI. I wasn't able to perform well until we were already down 0-4. After that, I played alright so we beat the RNG bot duo and others, too. Although we were blown up by Fnatic’s Xayah Rakan. (Laughs)
Actually, Smoothie was available during the Summer Split. The team was comparing me to him back then, but they decided to keep me since I’m putting in a lot of effort. I guess they thought that they gave me many chances but I didn’t deliver during the international stages.
As a matter of fact, if I’m their best option, sticking to the best option is right, but if there are other options that are better, going with that is the right choice. Even if I was the owner, I would do so too, so I said that I wish they are successful in the international stage.
They didn’t just throw me away like garbage; they even offered an Academy spot. When I saw Steve at the Netflix ‘7 Days Out’ premiere, I thanked him for the time in Team Liquid. I think he was the best owner I’ve ever had in my career.
You’ve been duo-ing with Deftly a lot now. How is he?
He’s really good, but his play became very passive. I can understand since during the past two splits, a lot of the games were nearly half over before he reached two core items. So if he dies in a teamfight, the game was over. I think that made his play passive; playing safe was the most important.
When we first started duo-ing, he tended to play it safe even in very advantageous situations. So I’m trying to get him confident. I don’t play Tahm Kench that much in solo queue, but I pick him and tell Deftly to go forward and fight confidently. I played Tahm Kench so much that people think I really love playing him. (Laughs) After some practice, I think he gained a lot of confidence.
How are the other teammates like the newcomers to the team; Hauntzer and Froggen?
I have no idea why TSM parted ways with Hauntzer. He tells us so many crucial things about the game. At first, I thought he might have a difficult personality, but he was really nice. I think TSM will really regret letting him go next year.
As for Froggen, he had a break for a whole year. I didn’t know at first, but he has a massive fan base and a very long career. He said that he doesn’t want to disappoint all those fans and that he wants to do well since he’s back.
After hanging with all the members for a while, I started to see a positive future for our team.
Many people expect Golden Guardians to do really well in 2019.
Personally, I wish everybody just rates us as the worst team. I think it’s better for us if everybody thought we are the worst team in the league; without any high expectations. You know, no one really puts us in the picture; Team Liquid won both splits in 2018 and 100 Thieves signed Bang. I want them to rank those teams high. Since our team was last during the past two splits, I just want to start there.
And starting there, I want to go up by beating them one by one. Wouldn’t it be better starting as the underdog than being expected to finish within 4th place or to get to the playoffs?
So I saw you visited Oracle Arena around Christmas. You did the Ginyu Force pose at the finals and won it there. How did it feel to be there again?
Well, first of all, the place was so different from when I played there. The only thing that was the same was the huge screens in the middle at the top. Still, it brought back good memories. I felt proud of myself since I won a championship there with all these people around watching. Although it was just a place to watch basketball for all these other people, it was a meaningful place for me.
Did you know who you’d be playing with before you joined Golden Guardians?
I was the last one. When they told me that Hauntzer will be playing at top, I thought ‘Huh? What’s Hauntzer doing here?’ I already knew that Froggen will be playing mid and that they will be going with Contractz and Deftly.
At first, I was worried about Froggen. Mid lane is really important in the recent meta; you know, Akali or Irelia just goes in and deletes the ADC. I thought that it might be risky having a player that was away from pro play for a year at that position, but people told me that Froggen is a player with class. They say form is temporary but class is permanent. Froggen had proved his class for a long time so I shouldn’t be worried.
You said that Froggen has some magic in his laughter.
Sometimes he starts laughing all of a sudden during meetings or conversations. But that sound is a sound that I’ve never heard before. (Laughs) Even in Korean, I can’t really describe.
You’re the only Korean in the team. Is it the first time? How is it as the only Korean?
It’s practically the first time. When I was in Immortals, there was Flame and coach Ssong, in Liquid, there was Dodo, Cain, and Impact. We talked about Korea, Korean memes and cultures, but now that I’m alone, I seldom have the chance to speak Korean.
Personally, I think this is better. When the teams have more than one Korean, they tend to group up. There’s nothing you can do about it. It’s natural; even if you’re really good at English, you tend to feel more comfortable around fellow Koreans. When I was in Immortals, even if I was close to the others, when I start talking with Flame, we just go on chatting for hours.
When I have a conversation in English, the topic becomes very limited like things happening around me, practice, exercising or maybe girls. Not much comes to mind compared to when I’m speaking Korean.
But still, it’s really good for my English skills, no doubt. It’s also really confusing with all the different accents. Froggen’s from Denmark and even with all the Americans, they’re from Seattle or New York; east and west, the accent is all different. I think I still need some time getting used to it.
Since we’re talking about English, there seem to be many “incidents” because of your English. Buy one get one free, your cat…
(Sighs) That cat tweet… I really thought of deleting it, but everybody already had a screenshot. (Laughs) After I tweeted that, I played solo queue. When I checked my Twitter after the game, I saw 4,000 likes on my tweet. I was really surprised and wondered what all the fuss was about. When I found out that ‘putting down’ meant euthanasia, I nearly blacked out. My cat’s still alive and well! (Laughs)
Recently, there was another incident. I was going to meet a friend so I told him “I didn’t make plan to see you.” When he heard that, he became really upset telling me that I don’t need to be that harsh. I got frustrated and asked him why. He thought that I meant 'I did not plan to meet him' while what I meant was that 'I didn’t make any plans so that I can see him'. He was really upset for about 5 minutes because of that. (Laughs) He told me that I should have added a comma.
During the offseason, several players from the LCK came to the LCS. Why do you think they came?
In my opinion, I think they considered two things. First, C9 got further than any team from the LCK, but they probably don’t practice as much as the LCK teams. We don’t run ‘double barracks’. But even when they don’t practice as much, C9 beat the LCK teams. If I were an LCK player, I may question the training method after seeing that happen.
Another reason might be that the players wanted an easier life, finding more time for their personal life while still being a pro player. I can never know, I can only guess.
Why did you first leave Korea?
I went to Brazil because I broke up with my girlfriend. (Laughs) Before I got an offer from Brazil, I had a fight with her. After breaking up with her, there was an offer, and I thought ‘I don’t want to be in Korea. I’ll just go to Brazil.’ My parents didn’t approve, but I convinced them that it’ll be alright.
Are you satisfied being abroad?
When I first went to Brazil, it felt like being in a different world, learning a whole new culture. Before I went there, I only knew the Korean culture, but being in Brazil and now in the US, things that Koreans wouldn’t even think about happens; even things that I can’t possibly talk about. (Laughs)
You said that the practice style is different here. C9 defeated those teams that practiced so much. Do you think the style will change around the world?
I think everything will stay the same. In Korea, there are a lot of people that want to become pro players, and they’re actually pretty good. Sometimes amateurs are better than pros. Since they’ve always put in everything, I think it’ll stay the same.
On the other hand, in the NA, it’s hard to find a team to scrim with even if we wanted to. The schedules are fixed for each team; although we sometimes play three blocks, it’s not always. There are no ‘double barracks’ here.
I think the best style is just winning it all; becoming the champion is the meta.
By double barracks, you mean the double roster, right?
Yeah. You know, the 10-man roster was first attempted by Afreeca and their coach is Choi “iloveoov” Yeon-sung. They started calling that in Korea first, but now it’s been spreading here as well.
*Note: Choi “iloveoov” Yeon-sung was a legendary Starcraft Terran player.
Do you think CoreJJ and Doublelift will do well together?
You’ll never know until you see it. CoreJJ already has experience in the NA and Doublelift said that he respects CoreJJ since he has experience winning Worlds. Even Deftly and I can be really good. You never know what’ll happen to a bottom duo.
Do you have anything to say to DoubleJJ?
Since Team Liquid signed CoreJJ in my place… I wish you win LCS no matter what. If you aren’t able to win the LCS, you’ll start missing me. (Viion: That’s milder than I expected.) If I say the wrong words, Doublelift is going to get back at me. I can’t beat him in English! (Laughs) I’ll just say positive things quietly. (Laughs)
What would be the goal for next season? Both realistic and unrealistic goals?
I won’t be hurrying too much. As I said, I’m going to start thinking that our bottom duo is 10th. Whenever I meet a new bot laner, I tell him that if we do our best for just three months, we can be one of the top 3 bot lane duos. I promised the same thing to Deftly.
That being said, my realistic goal would be to become one of the top 3 bot duos and get to the playoffs.
The unrealistic goal would be having extremely good synergy with this composition of players and winning the championship in NA, beating Team Liquid at the finals. (Laughs)
Any last comments or shoutouts?
Actually, I was thinking of taking a break for about six months. 2018 was so hard for me. I was criticized even when I won, and it was even worse when I lost. Even when I played well and won, they said that it was the team that carried or Doublelift that carried.
When I was playing for Immortals, even when the team lost, people used to say Olleh is good or Olleh was the best player. I was used to hearing those reactions, but while I was in Team Liquid, people said that I did nothing and that any random support player could have done the same.
The reactions from fans were so different. I think 2019 will be the year that I would need to prove myself. That’s all that’s needed. I want to show what I can do rather than just talk about it.