Wonho Chung – Live from the 2014 Oslo Freedom Forum


Good morning! Thank you for this wonderful wonderful welcoming! I can leave now. Let’s give a round of applause to Jacob for the wonderful introduction. Good morning ladies and gentleman. If you are happy to be here today can I see your teeth? Can you smile? Perfect, that’s good. If you’re excited to hear the talks today, make some noise. Amazing. If you have seen me yesterday make some noise. Well there’s no need to do this, thank you very much! Welcome again. I know a lot of you saw me yesterday but I just have to say one thing that I said yesterday again which is that we’re here at the Oslo Freedom Forum and I’m so happy and honored to be here and to meet all of you but I do have to share a little story about my background. So basically I was born in Saudi Arabia in Jeddah I was raised in Jordan I went to Arabic schools and Arabic universities so Arabic is my first language. Do we have any Arabs here? Make some noise. The incomparable Mr. Bassem Youseff. Round of applause. And I lived in Jordan for a long time, I now live and work in Dubai. My father is South Korean, from Pusan. My mother is Vietnamese and growing up they have committed many many human rights violations, against me. Because you cannot have a son, or any child, and call them Wonho. So if you have any children coming on the way, if it’s a boy, do not call him Wonho and if it’s a girl, definitely do not call her Wonho. Unless you want her to have a very specific career in her future. So I do standup comedy mainly in Arabic and I’m honored to be here to do this in English for you guys. So having said that, a lot of my audience that sees me on T.V, or on Youtube, or in live shows, are Arabs and as soon as I leave the Middle East, I’m virtually anonymous nobody knows who I am, nobody probably cares. So once I was walking around a hotel lobby in London as I was walking out, this British girl comes up to me and she says “Excuse me, are you the guy on Youtube?” I said “Yes, I am on Youtube.” So she starts freaking out, of course this is all done in English so she’s like “Oh my god. Oh my god. I’m your biggest fan. I love you so much. You’re amazing!” I said “Wow, thank you so much” and I was so surprised that she likes me that much she’s like “You’re amazing. I love you so much. You’re awesome.” And I was thinking “You know, I’m not that great.” Some people say “Oh we’ve seen you, you’re quite good” but not that “you’re amazing.” So I kind of played along with it and she’s like “Listen, can I take a picture with you?” I said, “Yeah, of course.” She said “Can I call my friend?” I said “Yeah”. “John! John! Come here! Look who I found!” John comes and he’s like “What?!” he’s like “Where did you find him?” she said “He was here, walking in the lobby!” So they both start freaking out, they’re like “Oh my god. We’re such huge fans. Can we take a picture?” I said “Yeah.” So she’s like fiddling with her phone trying to take a picture. The guy comes up to me and says, “Man, it’s such an honor to meet you! Can I shake your hand?” I said, “Yes, of course.” He shakes my hand and he says “Man, I love Gangnam Style!” Just for the record, I am not Psy. I travel quite a bit for work I’m so happy to be here in Norway for the first time A big round of applause for all the Norwegians for their wonderful hospitality and the wonderful country we’re in. So I travel quite a bit for work and I use my credit card quite often. So one day my credit card wasn’t working. So I called the bank and this guy answers and you know the card wasn’t working properly so one day it works, two days it doesn’t three times it works, four times it doesn’t. So I called that bank and said “Hi, I’m the user of this card and the card doesn’t seem to be working so what’s the problem?” “Is it the store I’m in? Is it the card? Is it the mall? What’s going on? Is it your server?” So the guy says, “Before I answer your question I have to verify that you are the user of this card.” I said “Ok yeah, verify.” He said “Okay, what is your name?” I said, “Wonho Chung.” He said “Okay okay, that is right. What is your nationality?” “I said “I’m Korean.” He said “Okay, that is right.” And then he said “When is your birthday?” and I said “October 22nd.” Actually, it’s today. Today’s my birthday. I’ll be receiving gifts til midday outside in the lobby so if you have anything money, anything, just send it to the lobby. Thank you so much. Or you can leave it with Jessica in the back, thank you. So anyways, he says “Ok Mr. Chung we have verified that you are the user of this card, how may I help you?” So I kind of noticed from his accent that maybe English is not his first language. I said “let me switch to a language we can both communicate in freely and easily so we can solve this problem.” So I said exactly what I said in English but I said: He was quiet for 20 seconds on the phone and then after 20 seconds the first thing he said was “Who is this?” I said “It’s me, the owner of this card.” He said “No no no no no. In the system is says the user’s name is something Chung.” “And the nationality is Korean. You are not Korean.” I said “No no no, I was born and raised in the Middle East. I speak Arabic. I went to Arabic Schools, Arabic universities.” He said “Yes, but it’s impossible for a foreigner to come to the Middle East and speak Arabic like this.” I said the issue is my card not my life. I said anyways, “Do you watch T.V? Do you watch comedy on Youtube?” He said “Yes, I watch.” I said, “You know that really short Korean guy that speaks Arabic?” He said “Yes, I know him.” I said “That’s me.” He says “Liar!” He says “Obviously you are not Mr. Chung. So what we will do now, we will block the card immediately, and if you want to activate the card you bring back Mr. Chung with his passport and we will activate the card.” “Otherwise I cannot finish this conversation. Goodbye.” I get upset, I go to the bank the next day and I tell them “How can you block me?” “I verified myself. What if I was traveling and I don’t have any money?” Anyways they apologized and said “Mr Chung, we’re so sorry. This will never happen again.” The problem was that for the next, I don’t know, two weeks they called me every morning to make sure that my card was working. So eight in the morning they call me, “Good morning Mr. Chung.” “Hello.” “Is your card working?” “Yes, it’s working. Thank you.” The next day, “Good morning Mr. Chung. Is your credit card working?” “Wallahi, it’s working.” Third day, “Is your credit card working?” “Yes it is.” “You want loan? You want mortgage? Car loan?” “I don’t want anything. Stop calling me.” Two weeks of this was so so annoying. And I kept telling them “Don’t call me” but they kept calling back. So I decided to come up with an ingenious way to get rid of unwanted phone calls. So next time your manager calls, your friend, your wife and you don’t wanna answer that phone call, do this. Just let the phone ring twice and do this. May I ask, who here is from Noway? Raise your hand. Ok, what’s the biggest telecom provider here? “Telenor.” Is there an easier one for me to pronounce? Like Tylenol? Ok so next time someone calls you and you don’t wanna answer the thing is if you put your phone on silent they will call you back and if you ignore it, then it’s a little rude. So let the phone ring twice, answer the phone, and do this “Welcome to Telenor. The dialed number you called cannot be reached. Please try later. Thank you.” They’ll never call you back. In Arabic that would be: Then I thought about it, I said what if you know Telenor opened a branch for their operations in India? What would that voicemail sound like? I think, it might sound something like this “Good evening. Welcome to Telenor New Delhi, India. The telephone you want to call now is unavailable. You call back later. Thank you.” And then I thought, what if Telenor opens a branch for their operations in China? What would that voicemail sound like? And I think it might sound something like this. “Hello. Welcome to Telenor Shanghai, China.” “The person you want to call now, he not there now. He too busy. He on a bicycle in Shanghai. Too busy. You call back later. Thank you.” And then I thought, what if Telenor opens a branch for their operations in the Philippines? What would that sound like? And I think it might sound something like this. “Good evening M’aam/Sir. Welcome to Telenor Manila, Philippines. The person is not available. He is not reachable now. You call back later. Thank you.” Crazy stuff. Thank you, thank you. Actually, I grew up in Jordan for a very very long time. I went to school and university in Jordan and I wanna tell you a little story about how weddings work in Jordan. Because weddings in Jordan is a meeting place for future brides and grooms in a “halal” environment where they can meet and the parents are there. So my story is about a girl called Baseema. Baseema goes to the wedding all dressed up, hoping to find a groom. So she goes there, she sits and she doesn’t want to do anything that is inappropriate. She wants to be very elegant and classy. So she goes there, she sits, and she’s having dinner with her family at this wedding. Her drunk cousin Nabil comes he says “Baseem, come dance! Come come dance at your cousin’s wedding.” She says “No no no no no no. I am very shy.” “I cannot dance like this in front of all these people, I am very shy.” He said “No come” and she says “Maybe later. If there is a song I like, maybe I will dance.” Her cousin comes back “Baseema, come come come.” She says “No, no, no, no, no. I am still eating and I’m very shy.” “I am very very shy, I don’t dance in front of people.” “Maybe if there is one song that I like, maybe I will dance.” Nabil goes and comes back and says “Baseema, it’s your song, come!” He drags her, she stands right in the middle. Everybody moves out, they make a big circle for her and she says “You know, I am very very shy but I will do a very very small dance for the bride and the groom.” Track #2. Stop stop stop. Was it a bit too early for belly-dancing in Norway? Well you know we cannot to belly-dancing songs here, this is not appropriate. This is the Oslo Freedom Forum. We have to do something very very classy. So something from the Korean folklore. Very old song. If you do know it, join me. Track #3. Thank you so much! By the way, for a 10am crowd who’s probably hungover you guys are amazing. Round of applause. I hope I’ve managed to make you smile before the talks today. It’s been a wonderful experience being here hearing all the inspirational stories, and again it’s so what more wonderful way for me to celebrate my birthday than with all of you? Aside from this, I know I do poke fun at different nationalities, ethnicities, and accents but you know at the end of the day everybody does have an accent and everybody is different but I think that’s what makes us all the same. So what I try to do with my comedy is to high light those points and show every body that every single one of us is the same. And I think we should applaud equality, and applaud human rights and applaud what the Oslo Freedom Forum is doing. So, a round of applause for them. And I leave you with a quote I read somewhere which I really loved and I think it’s very fitting for today. It says, “To live is to live freely.” and I think we all strive for that and I applaud you for being advocates and activists who work very hard to make sure everybody lives freely. Thank you so much. Wonho Chung.

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