The world of professional gaming has been lucrative for some in Korea, but we hear very little about what they do with that money. In the case of retired StarCraft professional Lee “Light” Jae-Ho, he trusted his winnings and income to his mother, only to have it be gone when he needed it. In an interview with Fomos’ Kang Yeong-Hoon, Light revealed that his mother made him sign insurance forms and drained his finances.
“As a pro gamer I made quite a lot of money compared to people my age,” he told Fomos. “When I put together early income, winnings, incentives and other smaller amounts it came up to be about 400 million won (or about $350,000). But I realized before I started my military service that all that money may be gone.”
The red flag for Light was when he wanted to try and venture living by himself, but when he approached his mother, she kept giving him excuses as to where the money had gone.
“I told my mother to give me the money I needed to pay the deposit for a one-room apartment, but she told me that she didn’t have any,” he said. “She said something about lending the money to her coworkers and that the money was tied up somewhere else. It was unbelievable, but I still lived alone for three months with the money I had at the time.
“My mother has been an insurance salesperson for a long time, and even managed a company under her name, so I trusted her to have the money invested somewhere rather than in a savings account,” he said. “Now that I think of it, I thoughtlessly kept signing on documents that she told me to sign. All those documents were insurance forms that my mother put under my name. I earned too much too fast, and it all started with my trust in family ties.”
His mother’s usage of family funds didn’t end just with his, Light said, and continued until the home became fractured.
“She also blew my older brother’s money in the same way,” he said. “I was doing some streaming on AfreecaTV when I kept getting debt letters to my address. I told my mother that I didn’t need to get my money back, just for her to take care of the debt. Ultimately nothing was done until my father sold his car and took care of the debt under my name. Right now the whole family lives away from my mother and don’t contact her anymore.”
Despite this dark personal history, Light was comfortable with speaking about it openly and moving on from it. His mentality was positive, and with nothing holding him back, he just feels like he needs to go on.
“It’s all the in the past now,” he said. “All the debt was taken care of. I’m beginning from zero again. If I have success in the future, it’ll be thanks to hardships I’ve already been through.”
Light debuted as an amateur in 2005, and was the No. 1 rookie draft pick in 2006. He left a strong impression during the super rookie tournament in 2006 by winning the grand finals. Later in his career he even had an internet meme associated with him, mainly using the tendency of his play being overshadowed by other teammates, leading to viewers treating Light as an ‘invisible’ player. Before his retirement in 2013, he achieved decent records and in some circles was considered to be able to stand with other prominent Terran players. Light returned to civilian life in 2015 after two years of military service and dabbled in streaming, but he now works for a mobile company called Wonder People.
Light confessed that the streaming lifestyle wasn’t really for him. It was surely the easiest way for him to make money, and he even started a blog to teach people how to play StarCraft. At the end of the day, though, he chose a career that has some distance with his past line of work but not too much.
“The company I work for, Wonder People, is working on a mobile application called Fora,” he said. “Its focus is on the global esport scene so service in Korea is still limited, and we’ve been adding mostly StarCraft 1 content but now we’ve expanded to League of Legends and Overwatch. Our goal is to make an information hub and gaming community.”
When it all comes down to it, Light said that he doesn’t really have many regrets about choosing to become a professional gamer. This goes beyond his current career, but goes more into his very own quality of life.
“I have no regrets,” he said. “I feel like I had an experience no one else had. I think the lessons I’ve learned from my past will help me in my future. Not just career wise, since not many people get to make a living doing the thing they love, and I’ve managed to do it.”