SAM HAMMINGTON, who has successfully won over Korean audience, is now the most beloved Australian in Korea. Being humorous, likable and approachable is only one side of Sam, though. The Yonsei Annals discovered a whole new side of him and is now here to bring his inspiring story to Yonseians.
What inspired you to come to Korea?
After finishing high school, I went to a community college where I studied international trade, and one of the topics that kept coming up in my classes was that Australia's location is geographically a lot closer to Asia than Europe. In high school, we were always learning European languages, but it seemed quite pointless in a country which is pretty much a part of Asia. Japanese has always been a widely studied language and there are a lot of Chinese immigrants in Australia. Korean was, instead, a language that stood out; it was something different. Most Australians, including myself, did not know much about Korea at the time, and since I always wanted to study abroad and experience a different lifestyle, Korea became my first choice.
How did you start your career as a comedian?
Although the entertainment world was unrelated to my college degree, I fell into it without planning to become a comedian. A worker in a broadcasting company told me they were looking for a foreigner that speaks Korean to be on TV, and I said I would give it a try. I thus participated in TV shows like “Surprise”, but after a while it was not happening for me. I decided to get a job apart from being on TV, but I soon realized that I was not enjoying the environment and culture of the company. I left that job, and tried TV, once again. It was then that I met a young comedian, named Kim Jin-cheol. He invited me to watch a show that he was conducting and I went to see it. There was a part when they made a volunteer come up on stage from the audience, and I put my hand up. They called me up on stage, and the reaction was decent. A couple of weeks later, Kim asked me to become a part of "Gag concert," saying that the PD is looking for a foreigner who speaks Korean. I completely fell into it. It was an extremely random decision.
Your decisions so far, seem somewhat abrupt. Would you describe yourself as an adventurous person?
Yes. As you get older, you tend to take a step backward, but I believe that you have to try things at least once. My mother, for instance, who raised me on her own, wanted to try things once in a while in her life, but she decided not to; she was worried that if she failed, things might negatively affect our family. They are the decisions of the past that she regrets now, and something she has to live with for the rest of her life. One thing that I try to avoid is living with regrets. I give everything a try; if I fail, I fail, and I can move on with my life. If I succeed, I succeed and I will move on with that too. If I do not try, I would always ask myself in the back of my mind: "what would have happened if I tried?" You just never know.
Why do you think “Jinjja sanayi”("Real men") instantly made you a star in Korea?
One of the big reasons would be that I'm completely honest and I'm showing my true personality on the screen. Sometimes, I say things that people might not like, but that's me. People know that I am not faking anything, and they can easily relate to me.
Another reason would be me being a non-Korean, but going through what almost all Korean men experience in the army. Koreans living in Australia or Canada have started to send me messages on SNS, saying "thank you for what you've shown on television. I feel embarrassed about trying to avoid the military and now I am seriously considering joining.” If what I show in “Jinjja sanayi” truly changes people's point of view about the military, it is a great achievement for me. Getting messages from people around the world saying “thank you for your inspiration” is a great feeling. I have always wanted to leave a legacy behind, and although it may only be a legacy for one or two people, doing something that can change one's lifelong decisions is definitely an important role.
What are your goals for the future?
One thing I really want to do is to become involved in Australian politics, but that, I guess, will not happen for a while. I wanted to work in the department of foreign affairs and actually applied for a few jobs in the past, but it did not turn out well. I think contributing my abilities for my country through politics is similar to Korean men going in to the military. Even though I am experiencing the Korean military now, I never had the opportunity to do anything for Australia as an Australian citizen; except for me being on TV in Korea, which, in a way, is similar to being a cultural ambassador. However, I want to do more for my country. For me, politics is the direction to take, since politicians need to be charismatic and able to speak in front of people, which I can do decently. Moreover, being a politician will enable me to achieve my dream of leaving a legacy behind.
Any last word for Yonseians?
It is very important to have multiple interests and to experience a variety of different things. Life, after all, is all about making mistakes and finding new experiences. It is like trying out new food. You might think it looks disgusting, but after you try it, it might become your favorite dish. I think it is finding what interests you, and not what is considered to be the norm. You have to realize what you enjoy. It is difficult to do so in practice, but you need to be able to make tough choices. Everyone wants to feel comfortable and take easy paths. However, taking a difficult or different way is part of the learning. You need to have ups and downs in life. You need to find good in the bad. I would advise Yonseians and all college students to go out and challenge themselves, without fearing failure.