When players come back to Korea during the off season, it’s a good time to catch up in the form of an interview. Pros may be satisfied or have regrets about their season, but nevertheless, it’s a good time to enjoy their familiar environment, meet old friends, and relax. It’s also nice to see other players meet up with one another to go on a vacation together. They may be fierce competitors on the Rift, but at times like these, everyone tends to forget that these players are young adults, who’re no different than anyone. Times like these definitely refuels these gladiators in their conquest to become the best in the world.
Kuro, who finished this season in 4th place in the LPL with Bilibili Gaming, unfortunately failed to make it to the 2019 LoL World Championship this year. Although he seemed to have many regrets, he seemed to be hopeful for the future, as it seemed he knew what he and his team needed to do while moving forward.
We’ve had a chance to catch up with this veteran in the scene, to talk about his season, and his plans moving forward. Kuro seemed to be eager to meet his former teammates, Mowgli and Kramer, right after the interview, so we tried to keep the interview as short as possible.
Nice to meet you! How’ve you been?
I haven’t done anything since I’ve been back, so I’ve been busy even just catching up and eating good food with my friends.
Have you met other pro players that you’re friends with?
Definitely. I haven’t met up with all the old ROX members, but I’ve met up with GorillA quite a bit. Oh, and this hairstyle… I went to get it with GorillA. I didn’t know how to get my hair cut, so I just kind of left it to the stylist, and she permed it for me like this. I’m pretty satisfied with how my hair is, but I’d like it more if it wasn’t a perm. I kept asking him if it’s okay, and he said it looked good, and it feels awkward because I’ve never gotten a perm before.
I think he definitely wasn’t looking at your hair when he said that… And I see that you’ve brought a dog named ‘Zoe’?
Yup. I’ve gotten a new member in my family. My younger sister loves animals, and although we’re already raising a cat, she wanted a puppy as well.
Why did you name the puppy Zoe? Did you name it after the champion that we’re all familiar with?
Probably (laughter). My mom loved that name. Ever since I was back in IM, my mom watched all my matches, so she knows which champion I play and what I’m doing in-game. She sometimes says stuff like “You shouldn’t have done this” (laughter)
So it is the champion we’re all familiar with. Would the puppy have been named Viktor if you had a brother?
No, it has to be 2 syllables. Victor has 3, so it’s uncomfortable.
Then Taric… Never mind. Your time in China was your first overseas experience, and it’s almost been a year. How’s life over there?
It’s been about 9-10 months. At first, I didn’t know what to do to adjust to the new environment. I didn’t understand a single word as well. However, the more I study the language, and the more I talk with my teammates, I can slowly understand the language a little bit. My teammates slows down their speech to match my level, and overreacts to every new word that I learn, so I’m grateful for their help.
What’s the difference between your lifestyle in Korea and China?
Although the language and the culture is a little different, when it comes down to it, it’s all the same. Our team’s head coach and the coach are Korean, so we have a good thing going on.
Is there any other aspects that made it hard for you to adjust?
Definitely the food. I barely eat seafood because I don’t like it, but whether it’s the tomato-scrambled eggs, the different types of fried rice, and mainstream food with the Chinese spices in it, I’m trying all different types of food available. Oh, I’m still working on the coriander.
What did you miss the most while you were in China?
I really love meeting up with friends, so I really missed the atmosphere of just being able to talk to them over some alcohol on the table. Although I can do that in China as well, the language barrier limits me to have deep talks. I also missed home-cooked meals, especially my mom’s food.
By the way, how’s ADD doing?
I wasn’t friends with him until I joined the team. We became friends after that, and we’re good friends. I don’t know what it means to be a close friend, but we always hang out here and there. Also, because we’re both Korean, I think our presence allows us to unconsciously rely on each other.
Isn’t the coach-player relationship different in China as to Korea? I’ve heard that players are more obedient to their coaching staff, while players’ have more say in China.
It’s different every time. In China, while there are players with strong personalities, there are also those that are docile. In terms of communication, the only difference in communication is whether it takes once or three times to get your point across.
In terms of the league itself, what’s the biggest difference that you’ve felt in the LPL as to the LCK?
In the LCK, you meet the team that you lose to during the 2nd round, but because there are so many teams in the LPL, if you lose to a team once, you can’t have your revenge match unless you make it into the playoffs. It’s a little less fun. Also, it’s kind of hard to travel via flights during the season. Just like in baseball, I have to travel to different areas to play our matches, so it’s a bit of an effort in just travelling.
Since you’ve played for so long in the LCK, what did you have to do to get used to the meta in the LPL?
In each league, the meta and the style of macro is a little different from one another. In China, the biggest difference is that the junglers are so good at playing aggressively. Since the junglers are aggressive, there are a lot of early game skirmishes. As a mid laner, it’s important to be on alert and back them up. In order to get used to this style of play, I needed to make a lot of adjustments in my play.
Unfortunately, you’ve finished 4th this Summer. How did the season feel like in general?
Because we’re a new team, we were lacking in synergy in both the Spring and the Summer split. If this squad was formed last year, and this was our 2nd year in the LPL, I think that we would’ve at least gotten 3rd place in Spring, and even higher in the Summer split. Except for our ADC, the rest of our squad was inexperienced in the LPL as well.
If you think about how the team needed time to adjust, 4th place isn’t too bad, isn’t it?
You could say that. But I know that the team and I can become much better, so it’s a shame.
We have to talk a little bit about Worlds. How do you rate the three mid laners representing the LPL?
They’re all very good players, so I know they’ll do well. Rookie’s a World Champion, so everyone knows he’ll do well. Doinb is also known to be a very versatile mid laner in the LPL, so I think that this tournament will definitely elevate him in both status and skill. RNG’s Xiaohu has always been a solid mid laner as well.
I see. Can you give us a short prediction for the group stages?
I think that except for group C, it’s pretty balanced. In group A, I know that G2’s a really good team. Perkz was previously a mid laner, so he’s able to utilize mid champions in the bot lane. Mid champions usually have an easier time against ADC champions, so that’s a big win for them. I think that although C9 is a great team, Griffin will do better in the group. Although it’s yet to be seen on how cvMax’s departure from the team will affect them, we’ll see how it’ll impact the team’s atmosphere and their drafts.
Group B… There are always upsets in League. Although FunPlus look to be the favorites of their group, we’ll see.
I think group C will be a bloodbath. People say that RNG is not the team that they used to be, but there’s a saying that although ‘form is temporary, class is permanent.’ Also, Uzi always had health issues. He’s had health issues during every single Worlds. If they’re worse than last year, it may affect RNG’s performance this year, but if it’s not as bad, they’ll be fine.
For group D, although IG isn’t as good as last year, it’s a squad with great players, so I think they’ll be fine. I’m excited for the IG vs TL bot lane matchup. Doublelift and CoreJJ are an incredible duo, so watching them fight will be worth watching. Impact’s also good at top lane… I think that this year’s Worlds is full of amazing talent, so no matter how the results turn out to be, it’ll be fun to watch.
FPX and SKT have become champions in the LPL and the LCK respectively. As someone with experience in both leagues, how would they fare against one another?
The mid-jungle fight will be very fun to watch. Both teams’ mid and jungle are really good, and whichever duo wins will determine the flow of the game. It’ll be fun to watch from the get-go.
Which league will you be cheering for? Wolf said that he won’t cheer for the Turkish team that beat him in the finals.
(Laughter) Although I can understand how he feels, I’ll be cheering for both. It’s no fun if it’s one-sided. I hope they put on a good show for everyone.
So for you, the LCK vs. LPL finals will be what you’ll be hoping for, correct?
What do you think the hot pick for mid lane will be?
I’ve played a lot of Pantheon after the remake, and it’s really strong. Teams need to play him well because he falls off, but once he starts to snowball, he can single handedly carry the game.
I remember that in the past, you’ve talked about the hardships of playing in a foreign league. If you had some things to say to the other Korean pros preparing to play overseas, what would you say to them?
Once it’s decided on where you’ll be headed, you’ll most likely have about a month to prepare. During that time, study the language. Even if it’s just a little bit, the effort that you make will put on a great first impression with the right people. If you play for 2-3 years, retire, and study a bit more, you’ll have no problem communicating. Then, you’ll have many career choices laid out for you.
Wherever you go, it’s always hard to go overseas. However, on the flip side, there are so many benefits. The culture and the language are the two biggest things you can gain from it. Your value goes up as you study the language, because it shows that a player has been really trying to settle and properly represent the region. When people realize that, whether it’s the fans, other players, or other insiders of the scene, people will learn to love you.
How did you become so good at Mandarin so quickly?
Time and effort. Mandarin was a language that was really foreign to me even more so than English, so I tried that much harder. It’s only been about 9 months, and I’m slowly starting to understand it a little bit.
Do you have a lot of fans in China?
No comment (laughter). People fly over from all over just to see me, and they even hold up signs for me. Also, the fan meet culture is very different. In the LCK, people are lined up for the fan meet, but in the LPL, they pick 5 fans from the audience, have them come up on stage and broadcast the fan meet.
So it must be very special for the fans. Which of the two format do you like more?
Since I’ve been in Korea longer, I miss the Korean style fan meets. I liked thanking each and every one of my fans for coming. It’s a shame that I don’t have the chance to do that in the LPL.
Recently, some pro players in the LCK have announced their retirement. As someone who’s played against them before, how do you feel?
Actually, I’ve been asked this question quite a bit this year. Whenever I heard the news about pros retiring… it feels like I’m retiring in a way. I felt uneasy. When I hear about players that I’ve competed against retiring, it feels like it’ll be my turn soon. I had a lot of thoughts running through my head, because sooner or later, I know that it’ll happen to me. I think I only have 1-2 years left, because unfortunately, as a Korean national, you have to serve your time in the military. I’ve wondered how I’ll do in the military as well.
I know that they’ll all welcome you over the League client. It’s been a very long time, but what would you say the biggest difference in yourself between the current Kuro and the Incredible Miracle Kuro?
I’ve definitely matured a lot since those days. I think I now figured out how to be an adult. When I look at the up and coming rookies in the scene, I see my younger self in them, and wish them nothing but the best.
Speaking of rookies, is there a specific mid laner that caught your attention?
It’s hard to say, because they’re all so good. Although I don’t have a specific player that I have my eye on, they’re all unique in their own way, so it’s fun to watch them play.
What are your goals as a pro, and in life?
As a pro, I always have my eyes on the prize. Hearing the crowd roar after winning championships was a breathtaking experience. I want to win more championships and relive the glorious moment over and over again. Overall, my goal is to never be forgotten by the fans.
If you had to talk about a tangible objective, what would it be?
Just as Bang and Wolf mentioned in their interviews, I want to own a competitive team, internet cafes, coffee shops and even bars. If I get to do that, I want to give esports fans either free drinks or food. There are many things I want to accomplish.
I love your affection for esports. What are your plans until the next season?
I’m going to get some good rest and meet people. I can’t do that during the season, so I’m going to make the best of my down time.
Before you leave to enjoy your much needed time off, can you please say something to the fans?
I’m always incredibly grateful for your support, and I love reading all the messages that every one of you send. Whether it’s the end of this year, or sometime next year, I want to give back the love I’ve received.
So will you be then hosting a fan meet?
I want to, but I don’t know anything about hosting a fan meet. I’m kind of scared to do it on my own as well. Pro players exist because of all the fans. Without them, we’ll just be gamers. I definitely want to give back for all the love I received. For the Chinese fans, I’ll do it after improving my Mandarin.