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In the recent Korean presidential election, one man enjoyed almost as much attention as the election itself. His name is Sam Hammington, 35-year-old Australian comedian living in Korea. He has become a sensation for posting his thoughts on Facebook, taking deliberate jabs at the Korean government and people indifferent to the election.
His post drew much attention, making people wonder why this person, a foreigner, is so interested in Korea’s presidential election. His name was on the number one of the daily hot search listing on Daum, one of the Korea’s biggest search engines. His following posts about the presidential election also attracted much attention. Korean media was scrambling to cover his story. One of his posts got almost 90,000 likes within one day.
Toonari Post recently had an opportunity to sit down for an interview with Sam Hammington.
Toonari Post (TP): Please tell us about yourself.
Sam Hanmmington (SH): My name is Sam Hammington. I don’t know what I call myself. I’ve got the title of Korea’s first foreign comedian. Koreans call me a public figure. I would like to think of myself as a public figure more than an entertainer or star, but also a businessman. I guess that’s one of the great things about Korea. There are so many opportunities here. Maybe that’s why I should call myself an opportunist. It pretty much seems like everything ever done has been based on opportunities.
TP: The first foreign comedian in Korea. That is a special title.
SH: I have been here for 10 years now. When I came here first, I kind of did not do much of anything initially, but someone said, “Hey I know a producer looking for foreigner who speaks little bit of Korean. Do you want to do this TV show?” I was like, “Sure.” So, I did that and got bit of work here and there doing small things on TV, and I got a phone call from a friend of mine who was comedian, and he said, “Gag Concert needs foreigner who speaks Korean really well.” You know, it’s the biggest TV show in Korea, I needed to do it. I wanted to do it, and that was “World News” (the name of the stand up comedy which made Sam popular with Korean people). From there, I did Gag Concert for two years, and ever since then, being on TV and radio, working in the entertainment industry full time.
TP: As Korea’s presidential election was on going, your name was discussed a lot as well. What happened?
SH: Having a Korean permanent residency, recently I got a package from the electoral office, and in the package it had all the information about presidential candidates. I kind of got really excited. Hang on, have I being given the opportunity to vote in the presidential election? I just made an assumption that I can actually vote. But, I learned that I only have the rights to vote for the head of Seoul education election, not for the president. So, I put something about my frustration on Facebook. I wasn’t upset that I couldn’t vote. I was upset that they sent out information that could be considered misleading, and also it was waste of money.
TP: Even though you learned that you did not have rights to vote for the president, you did not stop encouraging people to vote. What was your intention?
SH: Feedback I got from Koreans was like “It’s amazing to see you so enthusiastic about Korean politics, and you are not even Korean.” I kind of looked at it as an opportunity, and thought, “You know what. I can’t vote, but if I can get out there, and if I can say things that will make Koreans, particularly younger generations, if I can inspire them to go out and vote, that means I’ve done my job.” So, I kind of used it as an opportunity with my profile to get my voice other there and maybe urge other people to go out and do their part. For me, voting is really important. If you don’t vote, you have no rights to make any complaints about the government. It’s about you going out and trying to do your part for the country because it’s about the future. It’s to help the development and improvement of your county for the future.
TP: Unfortunately, people in their 20s showed low turnouts compared to other generations in this election. It seems that this is not the problem that only Korea has.
SH: We’ve heard so much about people in their 20s talking about the political system and shown much interest. But it was so disappointing to me to see after having shown so much interests being so vocal, but the turnout was so low. 50s and 60s had the highest turnout. The reality is 20s, they are the future. They are the ones who need to be more interested in the politics and concerned about how the government and country changed. I guess it’s something that needs to be, from an early age, taught about. You have to understand what politics is and how it does improve your life. I guess in a lot of countries it’s not compulsive.
Click here to read the second part of this Toonari Post interview.