“Korean imports” is a recycled idea in League of Legends. The famed 2014 “Korean exodus” to China was more sustained in reputation than effectiveness, but it’s not a new thought. And it’s becoming more common in one of the game’s newer wild card regions: Japan.
One of the top teams in in the League of Legends Japan League is DetonatioN FocusME, and its acquisitions of Kang “Daydream” Kyung-Min in the jungle and Han “Eternal” Ki-Hoon (formerly Vivid) were both transfers from their original Korean teams. Both players had a lot of offers from teams of League Champions Korea but told Fomos’ Park Sang-Jin they chose DFM for their dreams of making it to worlds, as odd as that might sound.
“After last year’s (summer) season, I heard that SBENU was not doing well,” Eternal told Fomos. “Considering my age, I needed to realistically look for opportunities elsewhere. About five teams forwarded their offers to me, and the pay was pretty good as well. However, as a professional gamer I wanted to leave a record I can be proud of, and the region I would be most likely to make that happen is the LJL, regardless of my pay. DFM is a team that really have a chance through the International Wildcard tournament for worlds.”
Daydream added: “I had some offers after the spring split, and I decided to work with CJ Entus. But I wasn’t able to play a single game and left. I received a couple of offers again, and DFM was the team I found while looking for somewhere that I can make a living and a difference.”
Both players have actually played against DFM’s players before and were aware of Japan’s now growing esports scene. In the case of Eternal, the coach for DFM Lee Jun-Yong approached him after Eternal decided to leave SBENU, while Daydream made the final decision following advice from Park “Shy” Sang-Myeon and others to search for a team that can be comfortable and “fun.”
The most important question for these Korean pros would then be what the difference is between the two regions. Both players agreed that Japan is a region where independence was valued much more than in Korea.
“When I was with SBENU, all I did was practice,” Eternal said. “Not counting eating time, I practiced about 18 hours per day, but we kept losing. DFM has rules of their own, but I feel like they’re much more lenient than Korea, and the players are responsible for themselves. I go through a lot less stress here. In Korea I went through insomnia whenever I didn’t play well and barely slept about two hours after over 17 hours of practice.”
DFM is not the only team that hired Korean talent since its inception in 2015, as Team Rampage, which is in first place in the LJL, has two Koreans on its roster. As a player with experience in the LJL, Eternal shared that the standard of LJL teams have been steadily rising. Daydream spoke more in detail about what he felt during his season with DFM.
“I’ve heard that the standard of LJL teams has gone up, but I also think the players are catching up quickly too,” Daydream said. “That’s keeping us on our toes, but I want to win the season, the IWC tournament, and then make it to worlds. I did get an offer from a LCK team that made it to the world championship, but I didn’t want to look like I just hopped in without putting the work in, so I declined. I wanted to work with a team with potential and make results.”
With the standard of the LJL comes the discussion of the meta. One would assume that Japan would mirror the meta of the closest region, Korea, and Eternal confirmed that both he and the team spend a lot of time watching the LCK, creating a trickle down effect of the meta.
“The top teams of the LJL have a lot of Korean players so they tend to follow the LCK meta,” he said. “I also only watch the LCK on my own time, and make notes on drafting in particular. The lower tier teams in the LJL follow what the top teams do, so the LJL follows the LCK a lot.”
Cover photo: Screenshot of Riot Games Japan website