In esports, in League of Legends, the hot, spicy comments of pro players can be very enjoyable. The fans get thrilled when Perkz gives a spicy comment or when Doublelift bashes other players in interviews. Last year, Kim “Khan” Dong-ha had announced war to all the top laners around the world prior to MSI 2018 by telling all top laners of the world to kneel before him.
We were curious about what Khan had to say heading to this year’s MSI, so we caught up with him in his busy schedule. We were able to learn more about Khan; his personality, how he has so many friends in the LoL scene, his thoughts after the championship, and why he always gives such interesting comments. Of course, he also spoke about his team, SK Telecom T1 and his teammates as well.
How have you been after the finals?
Since the season was over, the team gave us a long break. Kkoma was considerate on that matter. He told us to have a good break since we did our best during the season. I went to my hometown, met some friends, family, and had a good time. It was about a 5-day break, but it’s awkward having such a long break. I think I had more than enough rest.
When are you going to that ‘high-class’ vacation/workshop that was mentioned after the finals?
It seems that we’ll go after the remaining schedule. Where we’re headed to isn’t confirmed yet, but since SKT has class, wouldn’t it really be luxurious? (Laughs)
Let’s rewind the time a bit. What was Khan like as a boy?
I worked when I needed to and played when I could; just another one of those class clowns every class has. The teachers liked me and I was quite popular among my peers. The adults probably thought I was cute, and I got along well with friends. I enjoyed doing talent shows in front of everybody; as I said, just another clown. (Laughs)
How about gaming?
Back then, I played many different games. Starcraft, Fight of Characters (Warcraft 3 Custom Map)... Whatever I played, I was above average.
Were there any games that you enjoyed more than others?
I really played all kinds of games; RPG, FPS, MOBA… I spent a LOT of time in PC cafes.
Did your parents approve?
They didn’t oppose to me playing games. My mother is quite young and open-minded, she liked me playing games. She actually enjoys playing games herself even now.
You’re so lucky. How did you first play LoL?
I actually still remember the first time I played LoL. You know, no one really reads instructions; when I first played, I saw Smite and Ignite. The spell explanations said that Smite has more damage, so I thought, ‘why would anyone pick Ignite?’ and picked Smite. I tried to Smite the opponent, but it didn’t work, so I quit playing. (Laughs) Afterward, when the game got more popular in Korea, I played with a friend and it was really fun. Playing alone and playing with a friend is clearly different.
Were you good from the beginning?
A lot of my friends hit Level 30 before I started again; they called me a hot prospect.
Did your experience in many different games help?
Whatever I play, I knew how to… pull off cheap, sneaky moves. Isn’t it one of the best praises that you can hear when playing LoL? Many opponents said I play like a crook. That was my style. Even in RPG games, there are people that are good, and people that aren’t. Even when you do the same thing, there are quests that are good, there are efficient routes that you can take. I was capable of finding out all the expedients in the game. When I played FPS, I was an expert at hitting the last hits as well. (Laughs)
How did you get to walk the path of a pro player?
In my school, I had a few friends that were about 2,200 in Diamond in season 2. One of them debuted as a pro gamer. I once went to watch him play in an official competition and I thought that I want to be in that spot as well.
Back then, I didn’t have that many games played but I was quite high in points. So I thought I could also be there if I play more games. He was a classmate and was the best in our school. Watching him do well in competitions put me on fire.
So who was this friend?
It’s Fenix, who’s playing in Echo Fox now. Yes, he was my classmate.
Really? We never knew. Do you still keep in touch?
From time to time.
Did he congratulate you for winning the championship this spring?
No. (Laughs) We don’t contact each other that often; since we’re both busy in our own spots, it’s hard to talk to each other. If we get to meet in a competition, we’ll probably be really close again. You know, there’s that friend you’re always close to even if you don’t talk to each other much.
What do you think you would have become if you didn’t become a pro gamer?
Honestly, people around me, teachers or adults, often said that I would do well whatever I do. During high school, I wanted to become a comedian. (That would have suited you well.) I could have become a regular company employee after attending school like everyone else. (That doesn’t sound like you though.) (Laughs) Personally, I think I would have done well whatever I did. I could have become a streamer as well.
How did you come to join SKT?
As soon as my contract with Kingzone expired, our head coach kkOma called me, and I said yes.
Were there things that were the same or different from your expectations before joining SKT?
I thought the atmosphere may be really heavy and scary but it wasn’t. The coaching staff and the front office all cares for the players so that we can practice in a comfortable environment. It was nothing close to scary. Up to now, I don’t think there’s anything to complain about. It hasn’t been that long, but I feel that they really care for us.
What do you have to say for each teammate?
I was with Clid for about a year and a half when I was in China so I thought that we would get along fine, and Faker, since he’s a legendary player that’s famous worldwide, I thought I could learn a lot from him. As I thought, there was a lot to learn and from him putting in all that effort even in his position, I get motivated. Teddy suffered a lot in a low-tier team, but he was always a player that shined. He’s amazing. And as you know, Mata has an awesome career and everybody rates his macro as top tier; I felt that there’s a reason for that evaluation.
Then is there anything that you don’t like about your teammates?
(Long pause) Faker’s lame jokes are so… (Aren't his jokes better than before?) Well, yeah, but he still throws some of those stupid jokes. I get annoyed at myself when I sometimes smirk at them. What I need to do is ignore it and be indifferent; I hate that proud expression Faker has on his face when people smirk because of his jokes. (Laughs)
▲ Faker's sense of humor is too much for the players to endure.
What’s the biggest difference SKT has compared to other teams?
It’s a team that has the most championships. There’s so much to learn; I want to make all the knowledge my own.
At what percent do you think SKT’s prowess is at in the current state?
Around 7-80%. We still make mistakes during practice, which is actually a good thing. They’re things that we can fix. It’s exciting just thinking about the perfect team we’ll become if we’re able to fix everything. The point that I can’t see a limit in this team, that we have big potential is so satisfying for me.
What was good and bad while playing with this team?
Of course, having won the championship is good. What was regretful was the mistakes I made on my end. However, this can be fixed as well. I often think about how I could improve. I try to control my mind and meditate as well; it’s fun.
How did you become friends with Sword?
At first, we didn’t know each other at all. We met in solo queue, and we got in a quarrel. We cursed each other severely. After one game, we added each other; when we were talking in a calmer mind, I got the feeling that he’s not that bad as I thought he was, and he did as well. So we became close friends. Kids grow up fighting.
So why were you cursing each other?
I guess the game went bad. As we talked to each other, we made up and became good friends. I even went to cheer for him when he was playing in promotions last year.
What about now?
Now we cuss at each other as friends. (Laughs)
Did you talk to him after the finals? Anything about the solo kill?
We just said good things to each other. Just those common comments like, ‘You did well’. He wasn’t that depressed and we just praised each others’ performances. It’s not that appropriate if the person who won teases the one who lost; I consoled him with the solo kill he got off me. I told him that since he got the solo kill, he won top lane.
Now, we prepared some questions from the fans. How was SKT able to come together so quickly?
Since all the players are good, they basically know how to win. That was the biggest reason.
Since all the players are capable of carrying, the shotcalls could clash.
It’s true that too many cooks spoil the broth, but the coaching staff control that well and all the players respect each other. We listen to each others’ opinions well so there isn’t that much trouble with the calls.
You beat Tarzan now; whose picture will you be looking at for motivation?
Whose picture… Is there anybody that I need to look at? Now Tarzan might hang my picture in his room for motivation. (Laughs)
You’ll be meeting TheShy, who’s known as one of the best top laners in the world, at MSI. Are you nervous about facing him?
I do agree that he’s one of the best, but I don’t think that I can’t win. I’ll be playing thinking that I would win.
Which three champions are the best in solo queue?
Hecarim, Sylas, and Akali. They’re all difficult champions to play, but if you get skilled at playing them, they’re amazing.
If you win Worlds, which skin do you want to make?
It’s way too early. Making a fuss too early never leads to good results, so I don’t want to say anything about that.
Is there any player that you’re looking forward to facing at the MSI?
TheShy, since I personally know him as well.
How do you think the meta will be at the MSI?
I don’t think it’ll be much different from the current one.
You’ll also meet former SKT top laner, Impact.
The best top laners of the world will be coming so no one would be easy to play against. Impact is an amazing player as well.
In the finals, the predictions were tilted heavily towards SKT in both fans and officials (players and coaches).
SKT is famous for being so good in Bo5s and finals, and Griffin doesn’t have much experience in such a big stage. That could be why the predictions were like that.
Which team member are you closest to?
I wouldn’t want to pick a favorite, but I think I’m close to the junglers, Clid and Haru.
I remember that LCK video where Haru took money from you.
People tend to think Haru is a nice guy, judging by his appearance, but he’s different in the inside. (Laughs)
Who’s noisier between you and Teddy?
Of course, it’s Teddy. I’m rather quiet. I enjoy meditating in peace and quiet. (You said that you used to be the class clown…) Well, yeah, I was like that when I was young, but now I’ve aged and matured. (Laughs)
Will you eat pho in Vietnam?
Pho should be good, but what I really want to eat is nasi goreng. (That’s Indonesian food.) Is it? Anyway, I want to try that. Of course, I’ll also eat pho as well.
Let's get back to our questions now. It seems that you’re quite close to many players in many different teams.
When I was in China, I only played solo queue, so it was quite lonely. But because of that, I played a lot of duo-queue with good players; that’s how I got close.
Which match was the most memorable this season?
For the games that we were good, I won’t be able to pick one since we were good in most of the matches. The most regretful moment, though, was the game that I missed Urgot’s ult three times. I was in a bad condition. If I just hit the ults, the game would have been different, but I was in such a bad condition, my reflexes weren’t as usual.
That must have been really regretful.
It was an opportunity that made me realize taking good care of myself is an important factor as a pro gamer.
How is getting used to the new open-booth style in LoL Park?
During Round 1, it was quite awkward, but it got better in Round 2. When I play in the booth, it’s completely sealed from the outside, so it feels private. On the other hand, open booths feel like that someone’s watching from right behind me. You know, when you feel that someone’s watching, games don’t go as well as you think.
People say that you’re so good at Mundo 1v1.
Yes, I’m awesome. Just today, I beat up Faker. (Oh, wow!) Honestly, it was 1-1, but I beat him up anyways. (Who won the last game?) Faker did. (Then you lost…) Arrgh… (Anyways, what’s your secret to being so good at Mundo 1v1?) To be completely honest, I have a low win rate. I’m just overly confident. Confidence is my middle name.
You give really good interviews with that confidence.
In that case, I think it’s just that I’m eloquent. I sometimes facepalm myself when I see players that aren’t very good at interviews. Those of you who aren’t good should visit me with money to be tutored for interviews.
Who do you think urgently needs education for interviews?
Clid. I can see from his eyes that he feels anxious when giving interviews. Interviews are content that fans can enjoy; boring interviews ruin that fun.
How do you relieve your nervousness?
Since Faker is such a veteran, he helps me relieve my nervousness and the pressure. He often plays 1v1 with me before the game as well to help me in that matter.
What are you interested in other than gaming?
I like web-surfing. I like gaining knowledge regardless of what it is. Personally, I think my knowledge is wide and shallow. There’s a book titled ‘Wide and shallow knowledge for an intelligent conversation’, and I really enjoyed reading that.
What do you do for fun?
Nothing much. I like eating, and I enjoy going to karaoke alone.
Are you a good singer?
Going to karaoke is to enjoy, it’s not to sing well. I can sing anything.
How do you feel heading to the MSI?
Although many say that the results last year wasn’t good, I think it wasn’t that bad since we were the runner-up. Still, I can see why people were so disappointed since I didn’t win the championship. This year, I want to win the championship.
You told all the top laners to kneel before you last year. Have you become modest?
Not really; the reason I said that last year is because I tend to say what the fans want to hear when it comes to that matter. (That’s a good attitude. Some trash talk is necessary in esports for more fun.) Definitely. I never spare myself. I wish everyone does the same, but I’m the only one. I become the main target, but it’s fun! I hope more people start. I’m confident to do well.
What kind of player do you want to be known or remembered as?
A player that concentrates extremely well when necessary, and a person that’s always cheerful. Like PraY, he’s really fun to watch in his streams and his career is very decorated as well. I think that’s really cool.
Although it could be far in the future, what do you want to do after retirement?
My real life-goal was to earn a lot of money, buy a big building, and live doing whatever I want. No worries about money or working. I want to wake up in the morning, play games if I feel like it, take a trip if I want to, or eat whatever I want. Apparently, it seems that’s not my fate. (Laughs) I think I’ll have to be working to the day I die.
A word to the people who want to become a pro top laner?
Hmm… What should I say? When you play, put your life on it. You need that much passion; this goes for other things as well. You need to put in everything if you don’t want to leave any regrets. If you really want to become a pro gamer, I hope you’re going all-in for your goal.
It’s hard to give advice since I’m not perfect as well. What I can say is that hard work never betrays. Work hard, don’t think of gaming as a way to run away from studying. You have to think that this is the only way. In a way, gaming is also like studying.
Do you have any regrets with your studies?
If I did, I probably would have gotten good grades at least. I guess I’m a bit regretful because I didn’t? (Laughs)
How about becoming a comedian?
I tend not to regret any decisions I make. Becoming a pro gamer was the best choice for me. Even when I was in China, I did my best thinking I shouldn’t leave any regrets.
※ The interview was taken in a cafe close to a university. Many fans gathered seeing Khan and other SKT members having an interview.
How do you feel seeing you’ve gained so many fans?
I’m enjoying it. When someone recognizes me when I’m just walking along the street, I get a bit shy, but it does feel good. I smile awkwardly when they do.
Any last comments to your fans?
If you recognize me in the street and ask me to take a picture with you, I’m almost always open to it. Don’t be too awkward and just ask me.
Will you do the same in Vietnam?
If it’s not impossible because of the schedule, there would be no problem.
A managing editor who can do more things than you think.