In the 2023 season, Nongshim Red Force is going where no one else has gone before. For the first time in the LCK since franchising, they called up an entire second team and put them in the starting lineup. This is quite unusual. It has long been said that the gap between the first and second teams is wider than expected. Nongshim Red Force is in a position to change that narrative.
In late December, in the midst of spring preparations, Inven met up with long-distance dealer Hein-sung “Vital” Ha at Nongshim Red Force’s offices. He is the most experienced player in the rookie-laden roster of Nongshim Red Force. Although not in the LCK, he played one season and one split in Australia and Japan, respectively. He will be the centerpiece of the team alongside Jung “Peter” Yoon-soo, who also has some LCK experience.
For a team of rookies, the Nongshim Red Force is united by passion and confidence. The years they spent together as trainees and second-team players have given them the strength to navigate the rough waters of the LCK. Check out the interview with ‘Vital’ to learn more about the team’s determination.
Q. How are you doing, what’s life like with the first team?
I’ve been scrimmaging and practicing. Definitely, compared to when I was in the second team, the mindset is different in scrimmages and individual practices, and the environment is different. The environment in the practice room and housing has improved a lot. When I was in the second team, the dormitory and practice room were together, but now they are separate. I was worried about being late, but when I woke up and walked to the practice room, I didn’t wake up, so I was more focused on the scrimmage.
Q. It’s a pretty unconventional move to call up the entire second team and start them. What was it like when you first heard about it?
A: When I first heard about it, I was like, “I know all of these guys as it is, and I’ve heard a lot about them, so it would be nice to see them all play on a bigger stage. But it actually happened. It was very meaningful and nice.
Q. That’s great, but I’m sure you’re also nervous because you’re going to be competing against some really good teams.
I was definitely a little worried until we scrimmaged, but we haven’t scrimmaged all the teams yet, but when we scrimmaged some of the big names, I didn’t really feel like our guys were being overpowered, so that kind of took away some of the worry.
Q. Even though you’re playing in an overseas league, you have some experience in the top flight. You made your debut with the LCO Dire Wolves. How did you get involved?
When I was a sophomore in high school, I wanted to be a professional gamer so badly, but I wasn’t a very good player, just a grandmaster. So I convinced my parents to let me join the Korea Esports Academy, and after about a month or two, I joined the Dire Wolves. There was a competition to get promoted to Challengers Korea, which was the second division at the time, but I failed and was practicing privately, and then another coach, not the academy coach, Seung-jin Park, introduced me to an Australian team that was looking for Wondil.
Q. What was it like living in Australia?
When I first heard that I was going overseas for my debut, I was excited. However, I personally feel like I failed. I worked really hard, but the solo ranking there is relatively small, so it took me so long to get a cue, even at one or two in the morning. I felt like I wasn’t practicing enough.
I finished runner-up in the Spring Split, so I didn’t go to MSI, even though MSI wasn’t happening at that time. In the Summer, I went to the playoffs, but I was eliminated quickly. When I came back to Korea, I had some regrets, like, ‘Maybe I shouldn’t have gone,’ but looking back on it now, I think it was a good experience.
Q. After returning to Korea, you joined Nongshim Red Force as a trainee and became a member of the second team. Is there any particular reason why you chose Nongshim Red Force even though you weren’t in the first team?
When I was in school, I got to know the person who is now the team manager of Nongshim Red Force and coach Park Seung-jin ‘Chellie’. I chose Nongshim Red Force because I had a good relationship with them and they cared a lot about me.
Q. In the summer, you moved to LJL SoftBank, so you weren’t able to celebrate the CL title with them.
It was a bit emotional. When we were losing 0:2, I felt so sad, like I was losing, but when we won the reverse sweep with 3:2, it was a bit bittersweet. I wish I could have been there and won the championship with him, but I guess I did with some regret.
Q. Still, you must have gained something from playing half a season in the LJL. You finished runner-up.
I think it’s because it’s the top league, so there was a lot of desire to go to the Rold Cup. Until I was there, there was no extra reward for winning in the second division. There were international competitions in the summer, but… Anyway, going to Japan and having a big goal like the Rold Cup made me want it even more, so I practiced harder. I felt that sense of purpose.
Q. Last spring, you were called up on short notice to play in the LCK due to the first team’s COVID-19 outbreak.
I managed to win a set against Freddie Brion, but I lost the game anyway. That’s why I have a lot of regrets. If I had worked a little harder, I would have been able to go to such a big tournament and not be nervous and give 100% of my game, but I didn’t. I realized that I need to improve the quality of my practice when I play solo.
Q. Can you talk a little bit more about what you mean by practice quality?
I realized that I had to treat every practice, whether it was a scrimmage or a solo ranking, like it was a real competition. It’s hard, but I think it’s better to be hard than to have regrets when you get there.
Q. Now let’s talk about the team a bit more. You’ve been together for a long time, so you must be confident about the chemistry.
I’m learning a lot from the first-team manager and coaches, and I think chemistry is something you have to keep working on. Of course, we have been playing together for a long time, so we are more confident than other teams in terms of chemistry.
Q. There was a bit of a gap when you went to Japan, but I wonder if you felt that.
When we first met again, I could feel it a little bit. Also, in the spring, my supporter was Blessing, so I hadn’t scrimmaged with Peter for a long time. So there was a little bit of a creaky feeling at first, but now it’s a good fit. I think I’m up to about 70%.
Q. What was it like to have a full-scale scrimmage with an LCK team? Do you feel any difference from the second team?
When you play with players who have some experience, you definitely feel like they are more experienced. There are things you learn. There were cases like this. I was looking at a fight where we had two minions each at level 2, and we were going to level 3, but early on in the match, my opponent’s supporter fell backwards once, so my opponent’s Wondil was able to eat his own experience points for a while, so he got to level 3 first, and we lost the fight. I’m still learning to make these small but important plays.
Q. What do you think are the strengths of Nongshim Red Force and what are your goals for the 2023 season?
We have a strong relationship with each other and a lot of trust. That’s our biggest strength. As a team, we want to go to the playoffs.
Q. What are the priority areas you need to work on to get to the playoffs?
I think the most important thing is our ability to bounce back when we have a little breakdown in the game. I’m still a little weak in that area. A lot of teams showed last year how to overcome adverse situations. That was a big inspiration for me. I think the most important thing is to have an unbreakable spirit.
Q. You’re about to make your official LCK debut, how do you want to be remembered?
First of all, my goal is to become one of the top three one-dills in the LCK this year. I want to be the kind of player who can come to mind when people ask for a good Wondil. In the long run, I want to be a player who is not forgotten in people’s memories because I show a lot of good performances. I want to create a lot of scenes that can be talked about.
Q. Is there anything else you’d like to say on this occasion?
Last year, when I was in the second team, Jang “Ghost” Yong-jun and Lee “Efort” Sang-ho taught me a lot about bot compositions, and even Peter “Peter” played a lot of bot 2v2s, and it was a very meaningful and good experience for me. I want to thank them.
Q. Lastly, do you have a message for the fans?
As an emergency call-up, I felt that it was very important for me to experience the first-team stage and get used to the competition environment, so I think I might be a little inadequate at the beginning of the season, but I can do well as I adapt. 토토사이트 We will be a team that prepares really hard and fills in the gaps quickly, so I would appreciate your trust and support until the end.