GANGNAM, South Korea -- On November 21, Team Liquid announced the signing Jo "CoreJJ" Yong-in as the team's new support player. The South Korean player who won the League of Legends 2017 World Championship with Samsung Galaxy (rebranded as Gen.G for 2018) now heads to NA LCS for a new challenge.
ESPN spoke with CoreJJ to discuss his reasons behind choosing North America and Team Liquid, the potential synergy with his new teammate Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng and his desire to realize North America's long-cherished dream of winning worlds.
ESPN: After 2018 World Championship, you decided to leave Gen.G Esports and head to NA. What inspired you to do so?
CoreJJ: The prospect of a new challenge. I had already won a world championship as a player in League Champions Korea. I had an unsatisfactory final result in Gen.G and I was inspired to go to a new team for a start fresh. I tried to visualize myself in the NA LCS, delivering good performances and results there, making the fans there happy. I thought that would be fun.
I would say that I prioritized on NA LCS [when looking at new opportunities]. It is the region that I have spent a year in before, and it's a comfortable place for me to return to. I personally preferred NA teams out of the different international opportunities.
ESPN: You say that you were looking for opportunities in NA LCS. Why did you specifically decide to join Team Liquid?
CoreJJ: Team Liquid has always fell just short of a good result at worlds and international stages, by a slip of a hair. I thought to myself "Wouldn't it be cool if I could join Team Liquid and give it that final push the team needed to achieve international success?" I saw the potential of the team going even further. So I chose Team Liquid.
ESPN: Team Liquid has completed its starting roster for 2019: Jung "Impact" Eon-yeong, Jake "Xmithie" Puchero, Nicolaj "Jensen" Jensen, Doublelift and you. How would you personally rate the strength of this roster?
CoreJJ: On paper, [Team Liquid] has a strong roster. If I was running a simulation game where you could input player IDs and automatically output results, yes, I'd rate this team high. However, League of Legends is a game where everything changes year by year. Personally, and also as a team, we should not be complacent just by what's written on the paper. I'm going into this with a mindset that we're starting from the bottom - as if we are nobodies.
ESPN: In 2019 you will be paired with Doublelift, one of the top AD carries. What are your thoughts on playing with Doublelift?
CoreJJ: First of all, I think it will be fun to play with Doublelift. Doublelift is currently the most prestigious, popular, highest performing AD carry in NA LCS. I was curious on what new synergy we could find as we play together, on what results could come out of that synergy. Also, I've met Doublelift a few times in the international stages, and every tournament he has turned up with a strong performance.
Doublelift is an old player, and so am I. For both of us, our performances seem to be improving with age. The fact that Doublelift is improving every year is a sign that he is not a player to grow complacent, but is driven to continuously better himself, even when he is already a superstar. Therefore, I feel that Doublelift is a partner that I can grow together with.
ESPN: Have you talked much with Doublelift yet?
CoreJJ: Not much yet. But we'll get a lot of chance to talk in the year to come.
ESPN: 100 Thieves has also recently announced their roster for 2019. The team has acquired Bae "Bang" Jun-sik and Choi "Huhi" Jae-hyun and built a dream roster, especially in the bot lane. A roster that could challenge Team Liquid.
CoreJJ: I love that a rivalry has been set up. I believe that for NA to perform internationally, the region must first become competitive domestically, be it in League or solo queue. And to improve, one must have rivalries.
I'm personally good friends with Bang. I'm also aware that Doublelift has a personal history with [Zaqueri "Aphromoo" Black]. If a rivalry was to form between the two bot duos, the narrative would make the season more interesting.
ESPN: Speaking of rivalries, after Bang signed with 100 Thieves, he challenged Doublelift on Twitter. You will be facing Bang and Aphromoo in NA LCS. Do you have any challenge in response to 100 Thieves' bot duo?
CoreJJ: Now that I've returned to NA LCS, there is a part of me that wants to trash talk freely, to spill out what's in my mind. I'll have to take responsibility for my words with performance. [Laughs]
I'm sorry, [Bang and Aphromoo], but I don't think you're going to cause too much of an issue as we win NA LCS.
ESPN: Could you elaborate on that?
CoreJJ: I don't think they will be an issue because we will win against them anyway. Let 100 Thieves be Vegeta in Dragon Ball Z. [Laughs] In anime there is the main character, and there is that rival who is strong against every other person but the main character. 100 Thieves will be Vegeta, and we will be Goku [from Dragon Ball Z].
ESPN: Now that you are heading into NA LCS what are the things you are looking forward to, or are concerned about? Both as a player and as an individual.
CoreJJ: As a player, the upside is that I can become closer with my NA LCS fans. The downside is that I will be moving away from the LCK fans. As a player, that's pretty much it -- the fans.
As an individual, I'm concerned that my English is not perfect. I cannot confidently communicate in the game as I can do so in Korean. Well, I'll just have to try hard.
ESPN: What are your goals for next year as you head into 2019 as a member of Team Liquid?
CoreJJ: Perhaps we'll be reading this interview by the time 2019 ends and I'll be faced with ridicule. However... for Team Liquid, winning the NA LCS should be just a side achievement at this point. My goal is to win worlds. For my teammates, also, their goal will no longer be just winning NA LCS but finishing at a higher place at worlds. I hope that we can work as a team and progress towards this common goal.
I have always felt regretful when I watched NA LCS matches. NA has a good infrastructure and a pool of skilled, talented players. Yet, when it comes to international tournaments, NA always seems to drink the bitter cup of defeat. I'd like to become that final missing piece in the puzzle of NA LCS delivering at international stages.
ESPN: Would you like to say any final words to fans back in Korea, and the new NA fans that you'll be meeting soon?
CoreJJ: I know there are many NA fans who have high hopes for Team Liquid and me this year. I've said a lot of confident words in this interview, but I'm also very worried. I'll be practicing and working hard to realize these words that I've spoken, so please send a lot of support.
As of the fans in Korea, I didn't get to leave Korea with a good result. When I return [to Korea] I'll come home proud, so please continue watching over me.
To my Gen.G teammates, coaching staff and management in Gen.G, we went through so much -- thank you for everything. To all the new people I'll meet in the new team, thank you in advance.