After being ousted from the Korean League of Legends ecosystem, Park ‘5kid’ Jeong-hyeon has regained his footing in the LLA with Team Aze. Now back on home soil at MSI 2022, he makes his pitch in front of the world to get back on the coveted LCK stage.
It was quite a surprise for Korean AD Carry 5kid to be home so soon.
The former LCK and Challengers talent has been shipped overseas after bouncing from team to team for three years and not really ever cracking the top echelons of the game. This landed him on Team Aze – the young rising stars of Latin America who defied all odds in their first season in the top flight to qualify for MSI 2022.
However, it feels like a long time since the highs of winning the regional title in front of 13,000 fans in Buenos Aires.
Team Aze was bluntly demolished internationally. It was a trial by fire in Group A as T1, Saigon Buffalo and DetonatioN FocusMe played with their Latin American food. Across the map, there’s nothing Aze could do to stem the bleeding as her more experienced foes simply walk over her in 20-minute bloodbaths.
It was a somewhat awkward return home, 5kid admitted to Dexerto.
“We just realized that we still have a long way to go. [Day 3] was our last real chance for the Rumble stage so I’m just so sad that we couldn’t do anything and lost,” he said. “We just have to work a lot harder.
“Everyone is pretty devastated. We’re having a little meltdown, me too. We have to try to recover from that, but we can only do that if we win.”
While Team Aze’s MSI 2022 campaign is basically almost over and heading into its sixth and final day – nothing short of a 3-0 miracle run and then some will save them – the homecoming was an opportunity for 5kid to show off his wares to potential LCK teams to try and re-establish themselves at the top of League of Legends.
However, it is a hard journey. Not many players have managed to go overseas and successfully reintegrate into the Korean ecosystem. The hunger is there though, with three games remaining to try and work your way back.
What the Korean Exodus looks like
5kid has spent most of his three-year League of Legends career juggling the Challengers scene in Korea. First at Asura (which became RunAway in 2020), then on KT Rolster’s Challengers team, he was an AD carry in the middle of the pack.
According to LCK caster Maurits “Chronicler” Jan Meeusen – a self-confessed “connoisseur” of the Challengers – given the circumstances, he never really had the best chance to show off.
“5kid was fine in the context of CL and LCK,” he told Dexerto. “Jhin and Xayah and Aphelios were high priorities. He also played some Ziggs which I really appreciate. I like it when AD carries play a little differently.
“I think he was dealt a shitty hand. He came in and was then replaced by a much better player [Lee ‘HyBriD’ Woo-jin], and you can’t really do anything about it. He was then effectively thrown into the LCK in the ensuing split, which he wasn’t ready for.
“He was hampered by not having a chance to show anything special.”
The experience at KT of being promoted to the top flight and then being replaced hurt. While the experience of playing in LCK was invaluable, 5kid failed to capitalize on the opportunity – he was demolished by the best and looked viable against the midfield teams.
His story in this regard is not unique. In fact, in the 2022 offseason alone, you’ll find plenty of examples of LCK talent being sent overseas – he even has former LCK prospect Han “Lonely” Gyu-joon on his own team.
Two of 5kid’s former teammates, Lee “Harp” Ji-yoong and Lee “Juhan” Ju-han are at the MSI 2022, but not for the Korean representative. High-profile moves like Park ‘Summit’ Woo-tae and ‘Berserker’ were the talk of the town. Rogue’s Kim ‘Malrang’ Geun-seong was successful again in the LEC.
If you look at any region outside of the LCK, Korean talent is everywhere. There are 80 players in the 12 World Cup qualifying leagues who previously played in the LCK ecosystem but have been playing abroad since Spring 2022. Some are former (or current) world champions, others are teenagers looking for a kickstart. There’s more if you look beyond Tier 1 leagues into European regional leagues and other development systems.
At the end of the day there are only 50 starting places in the LCK. Quality talent has to go somewhere, Chronicler says, and finding success abroad is a must unless you’re in the top 0.1%.
“I’m really happy that LCK and CL players are going to other regions and doing well there. It’s a much better representation of how good the player actually is; it’s just not “Top 15 Korea good,” which is quite reasonable, to be honest,” he laughed.
“Players can still make meaningful careers and broaden their horizons. It is a wonderful advantage for them to get in touch with other cultures, to meet new people. Look at Malrang and how he blossomed with Rogue – people love him. I assume his English is improving all the time.
“Gaming is such a risky career by its very nature that I’m happy when players do well. And even if that’s going well in a worse region, who cares? It might be important for a competitor, but winning LLA is still amazing [for 5kid and Lonely]and I’m happy to see such players succeed.”
The hard fight back home
What that means for an LCK berth is a bit more difficult, however, unless you’re returning from the LPL.
“The LCK is not interested in results outside of the LCK and the LPL. The pipeline for me in general is you go straight from the Academy or the Challengers to the LCK or get promoted to the lower leagues in the LPL.
“The barrier to entry for LCK is ridiculous. It’s the reality.”
5kid regretted not being able to properly capitalize on the opportunity presented to him at MSI 2022 so far. In his first three games in Group A, he could barely leave base, let alone have a fighting chance in lane. The gap in the opposition is just immense.
“It means a lot to me [to be at MSI]. We got a really huge chance but we couldn’t take it properly. It was a huge opportunity for us because this region has never made it onto the Rumble Stage so I wanted to do it for them,” he said.
It’s not the end of the road for him and Aze, however. 5kid still has a chance to impress back home and glean some pride for Latin America in the process. Just a win in this tough group would mean a lot.
“As long as I can focus and stay sharp, it will be doable [getting back to the LCK]. I think I can probably make a good impression but I have to give it my all on Sunday.
“The chances are extremely slim [of us getting out of Groups] because T1 is in our group but even if we don’t make it out of the group I want to show them everything we have.”
https://www.dexerto.com/league-of-legends/team-aze-5kid-fighting-lck-spot-msi-2022-1824085/ Team Aze’s 5kid is fighting for an LCK spot at MSI 2022 after the LLA move