TeamLiquid.net's Mizenhauer talked to Hajinsun about how she got into StarCraft II and what some of our favorite Korean pros (like INnoVation!) are really like.
*This interview has been edited and condensed.
Mizenhauer: First off, why don’t you introduce yourself?
Hajinsun: My name is Hyunseon Park. I was born in South Korea, near Seoul and I moved to Paris when I was nine years old. My parents wanted to offer my sister and I better international opportunities, in particular education. They didn’t really like the hyper-competitive Korean education system. That’s why we moved to Paris where I went to school and graduated last December from Centrale Paris, one of the most prestigious French engineering schools.
So a lot of people were asking, “Why are you working in Esports with your degree? You could do anything?” It’s because it’s my passion. I want to do what I like, not a job just to earn money.
Speaking of Esports, how did you get involved in it?
I always played video games, but I didn’t have a personal computer until 2012, so I only played GameBoy or Wii in high school. When I was in Korea I used to play Crazy Arcade, but my My first big online game was League of Legends. I started watching esports in 2014, but the first offline event I attended was Dreamhack Tours 2015.
I went with some friends who were really into StarCraft. I used to watch StarCraft, but only the biggest events like WCS finals or a GSL finals. I didn’t really know the game or understand what was going on. I knew the races, but I wasn’t a big fan of the players of the game itself.
But, there were a lot of Korean players at DH Tours. I met MMA, MC and Parting who won and got really wasted at the after party. For my French friend, who was really into StarCraft, it was like a dream to talk with his favorite players. That was my first encounter with the players.
It was fun because I only saw them as random Koreans who were here to play video games. I didn’t really know the StarCraft scene so i didn’t mind talking to them, introduce myself like, “Hi, I’m Korean, I live in France. How are you?” And my friend who was really a big fan was beside himself.
Was there any particular player you talked to a lot?
We talked a lot with MC because he doesn’t really drink. The night of the after party I invited him to come out us and he said yes. He was the only player who accepted so he was alone with me and my French friend. We showed him around the city and the local bars. We had a beer and actually played some board games at a bar. It was really nice. I actually still keep contact with MC. He’s my first player friend.
"I really enjoyed [HomeStory Cup 16] and I fell in love with StarCraft. The community was so great and the games are more than interesting. Every moment of the game is really important. Compared to League of Legends it’s not boring at all."
So you got a taste for Esports, but what came next?
To give a little history, my first experience translating actually came at a Korean church in Paris where I did live translations for a year. That’s where I learned how to translate.
So flash forward to after Dreamhack Tours. My first job as a translator came that same year when League held their World Championship in Paris in November 2015. A friend sent me a link a month before the competition. Riot was looking for an English/Korean translator. I applied and actually got the job, which was a bit surprising because I’m not a translator, I didn’t even study for it. French/Korean was easy for me, but it was my first time translating with English.
That’s where I got introduced to the backstage Esports environment. I was working with the Riot production team who were filming a documentary. It was my first time, but I got to interview Faker who was really impressive. That’s where I met all the people who later helped me to get into this field.
I met lilsusie and I even talked to MonteCristo, who probably doesn’t remember me [chuckle].
I also met O’Gaming’s League crew, who I actually didn’t work with at all. I was only working with Riot Production crew, but I introduced myself, told them I spoke Korean and French and told them to call me if they needed anything. I’ve always felt that what part of what sets me apart is how comfortable I feel talking to and networking with strangers. In this case it’s how I became close to O’Gaming and everything started from there.
So, that was an amazing first experience, but I didn’t do much until last year because I had to finish my studies. During that time I kept watching League and StarCraft. I also kept in contact with O’Gaming and visited the studio from time time.
So how did you get back into things once you had wrapped up school?
Last year in late September, lilsusie contacted me and asked if I wanted to work for HomeStory Cup. I was like, “Hell yeah!” I had never watched a full HomeStory Cup, but I knew some of the most famous parts like when MC sang “Let it Go”.
They invited me to go and I was like, “Oh my god.” I realized I had to study the StarCraft specific terms like unit names in Korean and English. I knew the game, but not really well since I was just a casual fan. I had never played seriously. I think in Korea all the kids tried it once, so I think I did. I still have the notebook where I wrote all the unit names and the list of players.
What was HomeStory Cup like?
The players are all mixed with the fans. It’s a really cool atmosphere with a bar, the parties and the arcade games. Everyone is in the same place for four days. Everyone is really friendly. It’s almost casual, but still with top level games. Compared to WCS or GSL, it’s more friendly and accessible for casual fans.
At first I couldn’t even recognize the players. On top of that the Korean players go by their real names, so I had to learn that as well as their ID and face. But by the first day I knew everyone. I met Rotterdam, TaKe, ToD and the other casters, all of whom were very nice and gave me a lot of advice.
I think I did okay. I wasn’t that nervous because HomeStory Cup is a lot of fun. There was no pressure and the players were all really nice. I really enjoyed the event and I fell in love with StarCraft. The community was so great and the games are more than interesting. Every moment of the game is really important. Compared to League of Legends it’s not boring at all.
I know it’s a bit late. People might say, “Yeah, she’s new.” but I think it’s amazing that after 20 years we can still enjoy the game.
So, the next thing people really know you for is Nation Wars. You ended up being a translator and a host. You even got to play tour guide, showing all the Koreans around.
So, how I ended up being host for such a big event. I knew O’Gaming so when I went to the studios, even if I went there for League or Overwatch, I still met the StarCraft crew. But even before Nation Wars and HomeStory Cup I helped out D.Haz, the admin, by interviewing ByuN at the studio for a showmatch. It was really improvised, I wasn’t expecting it at all.
For Nation Wars, they contacted me to work with them for the event. I said sure, but that I wanted to be more than just a translator. I think it’s two very different jobs, being a translator and being a host. I wanted to write the questions myself and be more active because I knew I could do it. I just had to push and train and practice.
So they said okay and talked with Blizzard and the crew who were also okay with it. I thought I would be co-hosting with Funka, but they were like, “No, you’ll be alone because we don’t have enough international casters so you’ll be leading the show.” I had thought I’d only be the stage host, just say, “Hello, welcome” and do the interviews.
And then the first day they told me that the format changed, we don’t have enough space, etc. So I had to be the stage host, but also the desk host. It’s really two different jobs I mean, you can do both, but they don’t have the same requirements.
I think you saw I was really, really nervous on the first day because I discovered that day and I didn’t even know the run of the show. It was kind of messy and we had some organizational problems. I was like, “Okay, we’re doing this.”
The first week after each day, Funka was giving me advice and telling me things I could do different or better. But, I think the biggest improvement I did was between the first two days because I knew what I had and could work on specific points.
Before the tournament I only I only watched Smix’s or Sjokz’s video. But after the first day I searched for videos of Kaelaris and other desk hosts which inspired and really helped me. But I didn’t have their experience or knowledge of the game and English isn’t my mother tongue which added another variable. So it was a really big challenge. I was really nervous, but at the end I was really relieved.
I know there are always people to criticize and point out things you could have done better, but the reactions rather nice. I think I did okay and nobody insulted me that harshly on Twitter or Reddit.
Going back to something you said earlier. You mentioned the people you met at Worlds who helped get you into Esports. Was there any particular person you looked up to?
I would say lilsusie is my role model. Smix is amazing, but she’s a professional host, translator and Esports talent which is a different profile from myself.
I see lilsusie as someone who can do anything. She’s now a general manager of London Spitfire. I’d say I want to be more like her. I wouldn’t define hosting and translating as my major role. It makes it easier to network and helps people to get to know me, but I ultimately want to do a more managing type job.
"All the players I met at Katowice were really cool and they liked talking to people ... I think it’s important that the translator help make the players feel more comfortable so they can show their real personality."
That’s something you’d like to do in the future, but what are your goals as a translator? What do you think is the role of a content creator such as yourself in bringing the player’s personalities to their fans?
One of the things I want to do when I’m working as a translator is to show the player’s personal side. I don’t understand why people think the Korean players are all machines that never smile. It’s not true. You know soO, he’s really funny.
I started streaming like nine months ago. After Katowice I did a talk show with Rogue and more recently I did one with the South Korean Nation Wars team. I really enjoyed it because I want to help them communicate with the fans and show who they are to the foreigners. The language barrier is real. They can’t be as they really are when they try to speak English.
All the players I met at Katowice were really cool and they liked talking to people, but they can’t communicate with the English speakers because they aren’t comfortable speaking English. I think it’s important that the translator help make the players feel more comfortable so they can show their real personality. If they want to, of course. Some of them are more guarded, though they don’t actually seem to mind opening up.
Going back to Nation Wars, you were a translator and a host, but you also got hang out with INnoVation, MMA and soO as their guide. What was that like?
I met soO and INnoVation in Katowice and MMA at HSC which made it easier to speak with them because I was already speaking in the familiar voice [Note: Korean has casual and honorific forms of speech] with soO and INnoVation because we are the same age or younger. Meanwhile, I was calling MMA oppa [Note: Older brother].
Even before the tournament we chatted a lot of Kakao to help them with their plane. Like, soO had a problem with his passport. It was such a mess. When they got to Paris on Thursday night we started the tourist part. Turns out INnoVation and soO didn’t want to practice at all. We had dinner and a drink and they went back to the hotel.
The next day was media day. It was really hot, like 30 degrees celsius. We got dinner together after media day wrapped up, but MMA told me he wanted to practice. We were planning on going to the Eiffel Tower and cruise around the Seine so I asked him if he was sure, but he was insistent he needed to practice. So it was just INnoVation, soO and I.
On Sunday at the after party MMA said that he wanted to come with us, but INnoVation told him he sucked and needed to practice. INnoVation likes to troll a lot and you never know if he’s serious or not. According to him he is, but he’s definitely trolling. INnoVation claims he was joking when he told MMA that he needed to practice, but it really bothered MMA which is why he didn’t come with us. I was so shocked when he told me on Sunday. I scolded INnoVation so hard because MMA didn’t even get to see the Eiffel Tower. soO was just laughing the whole time.
I just felt like I was showing friends around the city. I don’t see them as superstar progamer. Of course they’re great and they have a lot of fans, but I see them as Korean young adults who didn’t get the opportunity to travel and see other things because they were so focused on their games. That’s why I decided to take them around on my own dime during my personal time.
INnoVation has an interesting sense of humor. I’ve heard a lot of stories about him.
I was happy because I think we saw a glimpse of this during the interviews and the content O’Gaming filmed. The players taunting each other and having fun. I really wanted to show that they’re funny, like INnoVation is a f!@#ing troll. He’s not a machine.
"...At the after party MMA said that he wanted to come with us, but INnoVation told him he sucked and needed to practice ... INnoVation claims he was joking when he told MMA that he needed to practice, but it really bothered MMA which is why he didn’t come with us."
You were saying that you weren't a huge fan of StarCraft II once upon a time, but it was really cool interviewing Faker. Can you imagine StarCraft II fans having a similar reaction when they meet one of their favorite players for the first time and going from seeing them as a player on a computer screen to a person?
I think they’re really impressed the first time. My french friend who took me to Dreamhack met his favorite players at the after party, but he was so awed and happy that he couldn’t even speak to them. I tried to tell him that they are just like us, trying to have a drink and a good time.
The players are really cool. It’s really just because of the English barrier. Especially Zest who has a lot of fans, especially female fans abroad. You know the Austrian girls? I met them at HSC and we’ve been in touch since then. They were at Katowice and they wanted to give something to Zest, but they couldn’t find the time to give him the gift. When Zest had some free time I called the girls and asked if they wanted to give him the gift. They were really happy, but it was so awkward. Zest told me how thankful he was, but he feels really bad when he meets foreign fans because he can’t speak to them.
I told him a few words in advance, but he just ended up saying stuff like, “Thank you for cheering for me.” I think Zest is one of the worst English speakers among the players.
You already told us about INnoVation trolling. Do you have any other funny insider stories from Nation Wars?
I think that one is fun, but a little sad as well.
This goes back to the really hot media day on Friday. INnoVation was wearing the Unicorns of Love t-shirt during Nation Wars. They’re luggage got lost in Moscow and didn’t arrive until Friday night. When we went to lunch before doing all the filming, we went to a place near where my boyfriend [at the time] worked which has nothing to do with StarCraft.
INnoVation was wearing just a sweatshirt because he didn’t have a t-shirt and was really hot. So my boyfriend brought him one. Suddenly soO wanted one too. I didn’t realize he was also wearing a sweatshirt with not shirt. That’s why he was wearing this big warm sweatshirt all day.
We eventually got to the O’Gaming studio and they have a big box with a lot of esports shirts from all over. I told the guys to pick one they like. soO picked an Iron Squid shirt. MMA picked the six pool shirt and INnoVation choose the Unicorns of Love shirt without knowing about the League of Legends team team. He just saw the Cheesecake Factory sponsorship and said, “I like cheesecake.” The day of the competition, Unicorns of Love tweeted about it.
The next one is a Teamliquid classic so I’m sure all astute readers know what’s coming next… The pirate question. Your family/loved ones have been kidnapped by pirates. You can recruit three progamers to take with you on a rescue mission. Who do you select and why?
I guess Harstem because he’s really tall and I think he can be useful in a fight. Bly. Actually I don’t know. When you don’t know him he looks really cold and distant, but he’s really a very nice guy. He’s still scary, though… This is really hard.
So Harstem, Bly… Maybe PartinG because he’s crazy. He doesn’t fear anything. He could just go in. I think PartinG could do the job.
Actually can I swap out Bly for SortOf. I think SortOf would be a nice viking to get my family back.
Let me ask another related question. Which player would be the captain of the evil pirates?
Serral [not a hint of humor].
Any reason why? It’s because he’s Finnish right? I know some Finnish TeamLiquid.net posters and you can’t trust them.
He looks like a tiny little villain. You never know what he has in his head.
I’m not sure if your explanation is worse than mine. So are there any people you’d like to thank?
Lilsusie of course. Also Blizzard. People from O’Gaming helped me alot as well. They really motivated me and have have trusted me and given me this opportunity
And last thing, do you have anything you’d like to say to the people who’ve been watching you at HSC and Nation Wars?
I hope they enjoyed the show. I got a lot of messages of support on twitter which really helped me. I’ll keep working and improving.
You can follow Hajinsun on Twitter at @HajinsunTV and watch her stream at Twitch.tv/hajinsun