The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

Joon’s “Jeopardy” Journey

If you haven’t heard the name Joon Pahk, you’re clearly not a Jeopardy fan, since he has won the game show for seven straight days last week. Joon finally ended his run on Wed. Oct. 12, losing to Katie Proctor, but he left with over $200,000 in winnings, earning him the 6th rank in all-time Jeopardy payouts.

His mother, Young Pahk, teaches ESOL at WJ, and she disclosed that she actually heard little about her son’s plans to be on Jeopardy before he called her when he was about to leave for Los Angeles to tape the show.

“He wasn’t allowed to say how many episodes he’d won, so I didn’t know how long he would be gone,” she said.

When she asked her other son, Joon’s brother, to whom she admits she talks more, whether or not Joon spent time preparing for the game, her son scoffed at her and said, “No, mom, you know Joon – once a piece of information enters him, it never leaves.”

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This apparently holds true, as Joon played incredibly well and aggressively, winning every game for seven nights in a row. After his second night, he had already won a two-day record total of $79,600. By his fifth night, he was beginning to look tired, and Ms. Pahk found out why.

“They taped all five episodes in one day, so by the fifth show [which aired Oct. 7], Joon had been playing for multiple hours [in one sitting],” she said.

However, Joon was still going strong, and even Alex Trebek, the show’s Canadian host, commented on Joon’s ruthless nature. “Franny and Ted, be warned,” he said. “The guy is good.”

“For him this is pure fun and pleasure… Learning but doing some kind of game with it,” said Ms. Pahk.

She also insinuated that Joon would most likely donate his winnings to charity. Apparently for his wedding, he and his wife did not accept gifts and instead wanted guests to give donations to charity on their behalf. Ms. Pahk told her husband it would be nice if Joon paid them back for the money he borrowed to buy his house, she recalled with a chuckle, but feels confident that the winnings will go toward a good cause.

Of Joon’s background, he went to Thomas Jefferson HS in Northern Virginia, where he fell in love with science. He participated in Science Olympiad against schools like WJ, and at the time in the ‘90s, he was the only high school student to win a gold medal for physics in the National Olympiad tournament. He also participated in College Bowl (similar to WJ’s “It’s Academic” team), and competed in professional Bridge tournaments. So competition was not new to him.

Many people even noticed that Joon does not compete like most other Jeopardy players – he’s different from most all-time champions because he guesses even when he doesn’t know the answers, just to break the streaks of other contestants. As the blog “Dribble Penetration” stated in their post How Do You Solve a Problem Like Joon Pahk, “The other contestants are playing trivia. Joon plays Jeopardy.”

Though he is off the show for now, you will see Joon again in the Tournament of Champions in three weeks. Also, as Joon is infamous for his crossword puzzle addiction, you can check out the New York Times daily puzzles that Joon has published to test your intellect against his clues.

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