In 2013 Go Game Guru reported on Lee Sedol 9p’s plans to retire (from competitive play) and move to the US.
At the time, we quoted Lee as saying, “I’ll definitely retire and move overseas within three years.”
Go players, especially in the US, were excited at the time. However, one year later, it seems that Lee’s plans are less definite than we originally thought.
Rumors and expectations
It’s been clear to us, as well as the Korean Go community, that Lee’s plans to retire have been on the back burner for some time.
Since we were the ones who originally reported this news (outside of Asia) though, and many Go players still seem to be anticipating Lee’s retirement, I feel that we should clarify the situation as we now understand it.
That is, Lee Sedol was seriously thinking about retiring and moving to the US, but his plans are not so clear anymore.
There are also some rumors that I want to address below.
What our source said
We spoke to a source who is very close to Lee and is well known to us at Go Game Guru.
Our source would prefer not to get involved in the politics or rumors surrounding this story, so they asked that we please keep their identity confidential.
Beyond speaking to Lee himself (which we haven’t done because he’s way too busy to be bothered about this) our source is one of the most reliable and trustworthy people you could talk to on this topic. Younggil and I will both vouch for that.
They said that Lee was seriously considering retiring, but that he’s since changed his mind.
He first spoke of retiring in 2009, when he took his leave of absence. At the time, because of some issues with the Korean Baduk Association, Lee often talked about retiring and not coming back.
The issues were mostly resolved and Lee returned to the tournament scene in 2010.
In 2013, Lee was involved in projects like Go9Dan.com and was missing his daughter, who was studying in Canada. He started to seriously talk about retiring again at that time.
Unfortunately, Go9Dan didn’t work out as planned, which affected Lee’s other plans. On a more positive note, the long mooted jubango between Lee Sedol and Gu Li finally became a reality and our source believes this has rekindled Lee’s passion for Go.
Because of this, Lee has stopped talking about retiring and doesn’t appear to have any plans to do so in the near future.
The rumors are not true
There have been rumors circulating that the original article written by Um Minyong, which we referred to in our earlier article, was entirely fabricated.
Some people have contacted us with these rumors and asked us to issue a correction.
However, our source is clear in stating that those rumors are false and that the criticism of Um Minyong is unjustified.
At the time, Lee may have slightly overstated the certainty of his plans to retire and the newspaper published Mr Um’s article in a somewhat sensational manner, but it was not fabricated.
What Lee Sedol says
Lee Sedol hasn’t spoken publicly about his retirement plans for some time, and, as I said above, we didn’t talk to him about this article because he’s too busy.
About a month after the original news was published, Lee said in another interview that there was a 50/50 chance that his plans to retire and move to the US would come to fruition. He explained at the time that there were many things to organize before that could happen and that it was complicated.
Since then, he hasn’t (to the best of our knowledge) said anything else substantive about whether he’ll retire or not. He hasn’t ruled retiring in or out. He’s simply stopped talking about it as the jubango with Gu Li and other things have demanded his attention.
People are allowed to change their minds
It sometimes seems to me that we no longer give people the latitude to say something and later change their minds these days.
There seems to be a view, especially with respect to politicians and other public figures, that saying one thing earlier and then saying something else later automatically means the original statement was a lie.
Sometimes people do lie, or make mistakes, but sometimes the situation changes. When things change, changing your opinion can be the intelligent and sensible thing to do. In Go, you need to change your strategy as cicumstances shift, and life is exactly the same.
If there’s no imminent plan for retirement, then that’s mostly good news for Go fans, because we’ll be able to enjoy more of Lee’s spectacular games in the meantime. In the long run, Lee will surely do whatever he thinks is best for his family. And North American Go players can keep their fingers crossed.