[Interview] GorillA & Kuro, a conversation between true friends - From ROX Tigers to now and the future

 

In the fierce competition within the LCK, full of ups and downs, words like friendship or love sound too naive. Maybe comradery is better. However, there was a team that was perfect for the word friendship. Many old fans would think of ROX Tigers when they hear the word friendship in the LCK.

 

Wherever they are, in the booth, or during streams, it seemed like old friends gathered up playing games, always being noisy, having fun. There wasn’t a single day that would pass quietly. Even in that situation, their teamwork was amazing and their performance level was very high with strong aggressiveness. There were plenty of fans who loved them.

 

After some time passed, the close comrades were separated here and there. Some are taking a break, some stream, and some went abroad. There were still a few players that were in the LCK: Lee “Kuro” Seo-haeng and Kang “GorillA” Beom-hyeon.

 

There weren’t any of the slightly nervous behavior players have when being interviewed. Listening to the greeting each other with swear words made me understand that they’re real friends. Who else can be interviewed this way in the LCK? I can’t imagine. An interview between two players, two friends, starts now. Watch out, lower the volume, it’s noisy and long.

 


 

Q. Isn’t this the first time you two are interviewed together?

 

GorillA: He’s probably quite sick of me now.

 

Kuro: I think it’s the first time since ROX Tigers in a broadcast interview, and yes, I’m sick of him.



Q. I wanted to have you two meet up in a long time through this interview, but it seems you’ve already met up last week.

 

Kuro: Yes, we did. He said he was too lonely… There’s no one to have dinner together and called me.

 

GorillA: We met last week? Oh yeah, we had kimchi pork belly. Well, rather than being lonely, I’ve been moving teams a lot lately, so there weren’t many people to have deep conversations. Guys like Smeb or PraY wouldn’t come out even if I called them.

Of course, I’m close with the players in my current team, but some of the younger players might not be that comfortable around me since it hasn’t been that long. So there aren’t that many people I can have dinner with comfortably.

 

Kuro: Yo, your teammates would be sad if they see this interview.

 

GorillA: It’s an off day. Calling them up for dinner is kind of awkward. We always have dinner together. And kimchi pork belly is good! It was tasty!

 

Kuro: I enjoy cooking the kimchi when I’m eating pork belly. GorillA was bothering me to come out so much, and there was a hot restaurant, so I went.

 

GorillA: I paid more though.



Q. Still, you came from quite far away, yet you joined GorillA for dinner. Good friendship.

 

Kuro: Of course I said no. A LOT. But he was whining so much, I just joined him to make him stop bothering me.



Q. Do you see each other often? What do you usually do when you meet up?

 

Kuro: We talk about our teams, how we’re doing.

 

GorillA: We actually don’t talk much about our teams.

 

Kuro: We talk about our future a lot, too.

 

GorillA: It feels that we’ve aged a lot since we keep talking about the old days when we see each other.



Q. How did you two first get close?

 

GorillA: We knew each other from solo queue and were placed in the same group in the league. My team went up and Kuro’s was eliminated. I felt sorry for him so I bought dinner. After that dinner, I went to his team to see him often. There was another guy on that team I knew as well.

 

Kuro: When we were getting acquainted, I asked him if he’s GorillA because he looks like one. That was my first impression of him, a gorilla.

 

GorillA: I recall differently… You’re bad.



Q. You two are “friends”, but wasn’t it awkward starting from ROX Tigers? Why do you refer to PraY as hyeong but not to Kuro, calling him Jolro?

*Note: Hyeong is what males call older males. Jolro is short for shameful (dishonorable) Kuro.

 

Kuro: I know. I told GorillA to call me hyeong as well. I was born in early 94 and he’s just a regular 94. I used to be in IM and he was in Najin; the teams were different and our ages weren’t that different, so we decided to be friends.

But after I joined Najin, there were several early 94’s so it was all tangled. I told him to call me hyeong since it gets awkward, but he refused.

 

GorillA: If it’s tangled with one or two people, it’s alright, but there were a lot of 93’s in Najin. Save, Ggoong, and PraY became friends. They were hyeong to me, but I had already befriended Kuro. After Kuro came, he became friends with them.

 

Q. Wait, if GorillA just called Kuro hyeong, this wouldn’t have been an issue, right?

 

Kuro: That’s right (Laughs).

 

GorillA: I mean, we’ve already become friends, but if I start calling him hyeong, it’s weird!

 

Kuro: There’s nothing weird! I’m fine with it by the way.

 

GorillA: When I see Smeb calling PraY hyeong, Jolray, it’s awkward. If I call him Jolray, it’s weird.

 

Kuro: Your personality isn’t right for it. You’re just a talkative nerd.

 

GorillA: PraY feels really like a hyeong. He was kind of my idol in the first place, so I can’t treat him too harshly.

 

Kuro: Anyways, it all started with him.

 

▲ "Please call me Kuro-Hyeong!"

 

Q. Well, it works out, so it should be fine. Anyways, you both are the oldest in your teams now. How does that feel?

 

GorillA: Rather than it feeling bad, I think what meant to come, came.

 

Kuro: It’s been more than four years since ROX Tigers, and I actually carried the role of the oldest player a lot after that. I was the oldest in Afreeca Freecs as well except for one year when Marin was there.

 

GorillA: You’re too shallow to carry that role.

 

Kuro: I don’t boss around kids like you do. You’re a kkondae.

*Note: Kkondae is an expression used in South Korea to describe a condescending person.

 

GorillA: Oh, when we were on the same team, I can admit that I was a kkondae. During the ROX Tigers days, the team was able to operate only if I was a kkondae.

 

Kuro: No, it wasn’t.

 

GorillA: You… Should I tell that story? If it weren’t for me, you would have fought with (bleep).

 

Kuro: Let’s pass this for now.



Q. How did GorillA manage the teammates back then?

 

GorillA: Under coach NoFe, the atmosphere was “let’s do our best in a free environment”. We needed to take a hint. Although NoFe was always with us, he wasn’t there when we slept. What I did was be kind of like a CCTV when NoFe wasn’t there. I managed the teammates that tried to kind of go astray. Now, I think I was maybe too much, so I don’t do that anymore.

 

Kuro: It was too much.

 

GorillA: We really needed someone to do what I did.

 

Kuro: That’s not true. He was just jealous of us for trying to do things he can’t, so he came down on us.

 

GorillA: So as a result, are you thankful or not?

 

Kuro: It would have been the same either way.



Q. Anyways, then you think GorillA’s “management” was effective, even if it was very little?

 

GorillA: I think it was extremely effective. If it weren’t for me, the team would have been wrecked.

 

Kuro: Well… As a result, we got along well.

 

GorillA: Be thankful for that.



Q. Let’s talk about the last season. First, GorillA had a hard time. Going to the relegation series would have felt awful. How did it feel?

 

GorillA: It wasn’t that hard to accept. If I can maintain my form as time goes, it would be awesome, but there has to be ups and downs. I’ve aged as well. And if I failed, I would have seriously considered retirement. I was quite embarrassed. 

I’m a player that has been close to the top. Falling down here, it really feels… I even thought I was maybe too greedy, not knowing when to step down. I really wanted to hide somewhere and hoped the worst wouldn’t happen at the relegation series.

 

Q. If you did fall, you wouldn’t have been able to avoid all the criticism, as much as you draw much attention.

 

GorillA: Actually, I was used to the criticism already from when I played in Kingzone DragonX. I don’t think I’m drawing as much attention as I was back then. So rather than minding all the criticism from others, I hated all the negative emotions I felt to myself.

 

Kuro: It was the same for me. When we were on a 5-game losing streak, I had so many negative thoughts like, ‘Are we going to the relegations? What if we fall?’



Q. It’s a known fact that GorillA takes care of his teammates well. What did you say to your teammates after surviving the relegation series?

 

GorillA: I tried to comfort them. It’s hard to say, but I think everyone realized what reality is. I hoped my teammates accept the situation objectively, thinking ‘we’re here because we simply performed bad, so let’s accept it and do our best’. I learned a lot as well. It had been quite a long time since I played such a heart-beating match. The feeling of the relegation series was really different from the big stages.



Q. What did Kuro feel, watching GorillA play in the relegations?

 

Kuro: You were playing only Tahm Kench, wanting to win so badly (Laughs). I was watching while having lunch, and he did alright. I thought he wouldn’t get relegated.



Q. Although you tease each other so much, you probably wouldn’t have been able to see him fall.

 

Kuro: True. I get furious and jealous when he goes to the finals, but it did hurt to see him go to that series. If it didn’t go right, I could have been there too.

 

Q. It was a dynamic season for Kuro as well. The first and last half of the season was completely different. Aren’t you sad that you lost at the wild-card match?

 

Kuro: I was sad. We had a 50% win rate against all the teams in scrims. So I thought we were going to do fine, but with the losses, it wasn’t easy to maintain our mentalities. There’s a lot of games that we lost that we could have won. Anyways, the result tells everything. The results are regretful since we all want to win all competitions.

 

GorillA: Hey, it really felt like hell waiting for the relegation series after the season was over.

 

Kuro: I really didn’t want to feel that too. So I said that I don’t ever want to go to that series in an interview.



Q. It was the first time you’ve ever been in such a desperate situation for GorillA, right?

 

GorillA: The first and last.

 

Kuro: What was with KOO Tigers?

 

GorillA: That was a seed qualification match; completely different. That was to fight to go up with hope and this is to avoid despair. The finals is similar in a way, but there’s less pressure. It’s awesome if you win, just sad when you lose.

But in the relegation series… If you win, you just escape hell, and if you lose… It’s literally hell. The weight is completely different. When we were playing against Seorabeol Gaming, KaKAO said to me in the chat, ‘We meet here…’



Q. As for Kuro, you’ve been to all the playoffs since LCK took up a league format.

 

GorillA: Honestly, you just sat there and ate what we brought when we were in ROX.

 

Kuro: I was fine without all that. Back then, I was good at everything.

 

GorillA: I think ROX was a team that had good synergy, rather than individual talent.

 

Kuro: Many other teams and fans are envious of our chemistry.



Q. That’s true. All those fans think that the old ROX family still live like brothers. How is it?

 

Kuro: We’re definitely not in a business relationship. I think we gather about once a year at least. Hojin joins us from time to time as well.

 

GorillA: Even if we gather right now, we can just talk and have fun. It’s just that everyone’s too busy. Well, maybe it would be hard to meet the Najin members since they’re all scattered around and some are in the army.

 

Q. You’ve played a LOT of matches. If you can go back, when do you want to go back to?

 

Kuro: I think everyone’s answer would be ‘when the results were good’. But for me, I want to go back to the beginning.

 

GorillA: You got off on the wrong foot? IM and head coach Hirai was bad?

 

Kuro: No, not that. Back then, I didn’t play much solo queue. Now I do.

 

GorillA: You’re doing that because they told you to. You didn’t play when you were in ROX too.

 

Kuro: During ROX, it was efficient to sometimes not play like I did.

 

GorillA: Don’t be ridiculous.

 

Kuro: I was Challenger without even playing 100 games. You played several hundred games but were still below me. Anyways, I played normal games more than solo queues back then. If I had played more solo queues back then, I might be better off nowadays.



Q. There were many highlights back when you were at Worlds in 2016. Don’t you want to go back to then?

 

GorillA: It was really fun back then. I’m happy that people remember my Miss Fortune support, but how it came to be was kind of sad. When I went to New York, I had issues with ping and adapting to the environment, so I wasn’t able to play much solo queue. There’s always champions that appear often in each season and meta, and it was good with Karma and Zyra. However, I wasn’t that good with both of them during scrims.

I wasn’t confident, and I thought it might be a crisis for me since both of them didn’t work out. I wanted to find a hidden card and that was Miss Fortune. As a result, it wasn’t that I liked Miss Fortune; I picked her because I wasn’t good at the meta picks.

If I’m able to go back in time, I’d like to go back to then and practice the meta champions more. If we did well, we might have overcome SKT T1 and win the championship against Samsung.

 

Kuro: It was an unexpected pick, but it was really good since when we used her in scrims, we won about 90% of the games. That was why we were able to bring her out on the stage, confidently

 

GorillA: Other than that, there are lots of moments that I want to go back. But of those many moments, if I have to choose one, it would be that time that could have changed the direction of my pro gaming career.

 

Q. You two had many nicknames. What was your favorite?

 

GorillA: I liked “mom” or “Captain Go” and stuff like that.

 

Kuro: I just like “Gwangmyeong fire chin”.

 

GorillA: You’re just Jolro. It suits you well.



Q. You both have also had some time abroad, and came back. Does the LCK feel like home?

 

Kuro: Having fluent communication is a big plus.

 

GorillA: Like my hometown.

 

Kuro: It wasn’t that it was difficult living abroad. I still keep in touch with the players in Bilibili Gaming. I want to take a trip there.

 

GorillA: It wasn’t hard for me too. It’s just that… My teammates started to disappear one by one, and it came to me as well (Laughs). I still keep in touch with the Misfits CEO, manager, and coaches. We’re still quite close. It may look as if I was just cut off; if it were true, I wouldn’t even be talking to them.

 

Q. Shall we talk about the future? GorillA will be meeting YamatoCannon as the head coach. 

 

GorillA: That was very unexpected. I kind of feel that you get to experience all sorts of different interesting things at the end. I’ve been to the relegations… A foreign head coach joined the LCK for the first time and I’m in his team. But it wasn’t that shocking. Obviously, my teammates may feel differently. I think it’ll be fun anyway.



Q. What do you look forward to from YamatoCannon?

 

GorillA: Many people said that we weren’t clustered as one when we played. I agree a bit. I haven’t talked to YamatoCannon much yet, but according to what he did and the evaluations around him, it seems that he has a certain charisma. So I think he’ll go well with the team. It’ll have a positive effect. I’m looking forward to it.



Q. And he’s younger than you are…

 

GorillA: I just feel that I’m THAT old now.

▲ "Should I call you Hyeong?"

 

Q. Kuro would also have a different mindset from the spring season going into the summer season.

 

Kuro: We thought of the spring season as bringing up the synergy and building teamwork. Unexpectedly, it was alright, so I thought we would have better results. As for the mindset going into the summer season… The summer season is really important since it’s directly connected to Worlds. I want to do well and get to Worlds.



Q. Other than next season’s plans, you’re worrying a lot about the future. What worries you the most recently?

 

GorillA: We just complain emptily a lot.

 

Kuro: Right. Since we’re nearing retirement.

 

GorillA: We have to go to the army someday, so we discussed going to the KATUSA (Korean Augmentation to the United States Army). It’s a lot better than the regular army and the minimum TOEIC score is worth trying.

 

Kuro: Is it easy to get 780 on TOEIC?

 

GorillA: If we study, yeah. Anyways, we talked about trying it even if we don’t make it. We also talked about doing the analyst desk in the LCK.

 

Kuro: And I wanted to try living alone, so I talked about that. Living alone was kind of my dream.

 

GorillA: Living near Jonggak was something we discussed. So that we can walk to LoL Park.

 

Kuro: But I’d have to see your face so close? I don’t think so.

 

GorillA: I never said living together. I’m gonna live somewhere else!



Q. The biggest realistic issue would be going to the army. Other than KATUSA, what are your plans?

 

GorillA: It’s hard to postpone going to the army. I have to keep my mind on it even during the season. Applying for KATUSA is in September so the timing is a bit in the middle of everything.

 

Kuro: I’m also considering going for auxiliary police. I’ll apply for both and go to whatever I pass.

 

GorillA: If we sign a 1-year contract, it feels uneasy now. If there’s an unexpected issue during the season, it gets complicated with the team too. I sometimes think that rather than worrying about all this, it might be easier to just wait to join the army while earning some pocket money. Saying this stuff makes this feel like a retirement interview.

 

Kuro: We can retire, or maybe not. We don’t have many choices. Other young players can join different teams for change or go abroad; they have a lot to choose from. What we have is two. Play one more year, or take a break and go to the army.



Q. Then this year’s performance would be more important for you guys.

 

Kuro: Yeah. I told my friends as a joke, that I’ll be retiring after this season.

 

GorillA: I did that too, so that they get shocked. My friends just laughed it off.



Q. Is there anything else that you think about? I think about my health as I age.

 

GorillA: Health for me too.

 

Kuro: Same here (Laughs).

 

GorillA: It’s in-between seasons so my throat gets swollen. I need to have a full examination, and if something comes up… Maybe the army…

 

Kuro: He has to go to Nonsan training facility to come to his senses…

 

GorillA: Getting a swollen throat doesn’t matter much for me, but the problem is that I start snoring. Since we live together in the team house, I started to worry about snoring. When I get up, I check my temperature and have medicine for my throat.

 

Q. There should be many things that you had to give up to become a pro gamer. From those, which was the biggest or which do you miss the most?

 

Kuro: There’s a lot I gave up…

 

GorillA: Friends for me. When I first had my debut, my friends were probably proud of me. But I was criticized a lot at that time. Some fans saying ‘why the hell is he a pro?’ I was really embarrassed of that being shown to my friends. So I didn’t contact anybody for about a year.

Afterward, I went to Worlds playing Janna, and became famous. As for now, I tell myself that the friends I still have now are the “real” friends, but I do feel sorry to the friends that I stopped contacting at that time. It was hard to maintain the relationship with other people. There aren’t many left. I’m just thankful to the small number of friends that are still around me. Of course, there still are many friends I made while being a pro gamer.

 

Kuro: I had a lot of thoughts seeing friends getting girlfriends. Of course having a girlfriend doesn’t mean a decline in performance as a pro gamer, but people could misunderstand. So I thought that I shouldn’t get a girlfriend while being a pro gamer.

 

GorillA: ?

 

Kuro: I did think about it.

 

GorillA: Never mind.

 

Kuro: There’s that… And in college, you have vacations. The problem is that when they’re on vacation, we’re extremely busy in the middle of the season. If we plan to take a trip with old friends, I’m the only one that can’t go, even if I really want to. This happened year after year, so it was really regretful. Now that we’ve aged a bit, those friends that traveled around are now working and are busy. I think that it would have been better if I was able to travel around a lot when I was younger. Everyone’s too busy now to say, let’s go on a trip.

 

GorillA: You have me.

 

Kuro: Never. I’ll never go on a trip with you, just the two of us.

 

GorillA: If there are more people, there’s too much for me to do.

 

Kuro: You don’t have to do all that stuff, but you keep thinking that you have to take care of everybody. Just think that you’re playing along.

 

GorillA: So have we ever planned on taking a trip?

 

Kuro: Why should I plan anything since I’m never going with just you? I cut that off from the beginning.

 

GorillA: ... I have plenty of people to go with anyway.



Q. Kuro said that it’s not over yet in a previous interview. There would have so many difficult moments. What makes you keep your head in the game?

 

GorillA: When I first thought of quitting was when I was the runner-up two to three times. I thought I might be the reason that we’re just runner-up. It was really hard, but the reason I couldn’t quit was the thought, ‘what can I do if I quit?’

 

Kuro: I wanted to quit lots of times. When I get criticized, or when I end as runner-up many times… Every time I thought, ‘This is the road I chose, and if I quit this now, my life is doomed. There’s nothing I can do.’ Anyways, this is what I can do best, so I was determined to do this until I can. For my own future.

 

GorillA: The fans’ support was also positive. If I quit, when can I ever be supported this much by other people?

 

Kuro: Can we even get all this attention ever again?

 

GorillA: As I aged, fans aged as well. I wonder what they’re doing. Whatever they do, I hope all’s good.

 

Kuro: We get all this attention and cheering for nothing in return. We did nothing for them. We just do what we do, and they like us for it.

 

GorillA: So I want to try to do something for them… At least show what I’ve been up to. We often have a similar fan pool, so we both take pictures together with the fans.



Q. In the far future, what do you want to do?

 

Kuro: There are lots of things that I want to do. My motto is: let’s do whatever I can experience at least once. That’s how I became a pro gamer.

I like singing so I want to learn more about singing; not that I want to become a singer… I want to learn to play the guitar and learn to swim. After the army, I would have to find work. I don’t think I’ll do that well as a commentator. My pronunciation is a bit off. Maybe a coach… And if possible, I want to become the first player in the thirties.

 

GorillA: Should we try from the academy after the army?

 

Kuro: (Laughs) I also want to become the owner of a cafe and the owner of a building. Paragliding and skydiving. There are so many things that I want to do. But I don’t think I’ll ever study.

 

GorillA: For me too, since I was a pro gamer while others studied hard, so it would be difficult to find work in diverse areas like others do. It would be realistic to find work in the esports scene.

There were many offers to establish a business. There’s a sushi place I regularly go to in Ilsan who suggested that I should learn sushi, and a cafe said that they’ll help me start up a cafe.

I once had a macaron event, and the owner of that macaron place also said that they’ll teach me their recipes. I even imagined opening “Beom-hyeon Bakery” near LoL Park.

 

Kuro: You’re thinking of opening a store too easily.

 

GorillA: There are so many people that told me that they can help me, so I’m very thankful. If I start a cafe, since I’m not good looking enough, I’ll have him work at the counter and be in the kitchen.

 

Kuro: I won’t do it unless we take half and half. I want to be the owner, but I don’t want to work with him. I can’t keep seeing this boring face until the far future.

 

GorillA: That’s disappointing.

 

Q. Let’s try telling each other something. You can close your ears if you want to.

 

Kuro: There’s something I always tell him. Stop bothering me.



Q. What does that mean?

 

Kuro: He really bothers me all the time.

 

GorillA: Well, if I want to do something, the first person that I can contact to do that is him.

 

Kuro: He whines too much, you know. There could be things I need to do on my own, but he keeps whining until I say yes.

 

GorillA: Well, that’s kind of true. But he’s a bad guy too.



Q. What does GorillA have to say to Kuro?

 

GorillA: We’re probably quite successful pro gamers, right? But looking at him, he sometimes has his head in the clouds. I think we should have to be prepared with specific plans. Having fun is good, but we would have to work. Kuro thinks that because he gave up his twenties, he has to be repaid for that. For me, since I was running all the time up to this point, I can move forward further on through this. That’s what this guy lacks.

 

Kuro: That’s true, but what I want to do is do the stuff I wasn’t able to. Just healthy hobbies.

 

GorillA: I actually worry too much. But he has none of that. I wish you feel the uneasiness of the future.

 

Kuro: In my standards, I also worry a lot. I just don’t express it to the people around me.

 

GorillA: You’re not even going to tell me?

 

Kuro: I don’t even tell my parents.



Q. There are many retired players come back to the team as a streamer or a member of the coaching staff. Do you ever think of doing that?

 

GorillA: We don’t have really a root… Well, we might have roots, but most of the teams we were in have disbanded. If we were in a big organization, we might have been able to try several things through stable foundations. It feels that my hometown has disappeared.

 

Kuro: This might work. After retirement, we promote ourselves saying, ‘whoever wants us, use us’.

 

GorillA: Want to start a team with me? You’re talented, so you be the coach.

 

Kuro: I think I’ll do well. Pick me.

 

GorillA: I’ll be the head coach, and you can be a coach.

 

Kuro: I don’t want to work under you. I’ll be the head coach. If you’re not good, I’ll fire you.

 

GorillA: No, I…



Q. (Interrupting) I’d be happy to listen to you go on all night, but we should wrap up. Lastly, a word to the fans?

 

GorillA: We’re doing well (Laughs).

 

Kuro: I don’t even remember what we said here today, but it’s good to show you how we’ve been doing. I hope you had fun reading this interview.

 

GorillA: I think we should have a talk show like this. Recently, Wolf has been wanting me. There’s so much to talk about with these old gamers. The RCK played last time was really fun too.

 

Kuro: We’ve aged. I want to do this: Old ROX vs Old SKT. After we all get to our thirties, we would just have fun, enjoying the game. The forgotten picks come back… Singed… Picks from Worlds 2016…

 

GorillA: Maybe then, we could beat the old SKT guys?

 


 

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