South Korean comedian and actor Wonho Chung says he “feels amazing” to be a recipient of the UAE’s golden visa and that the honour will challenge him as an artist to do more.
“I’ve lived here for 17 years and for a country that has been so good to me, to my career and my family to recognise me in such a way, is such an amazing thing,” Chung tells The National. “It makes you feel more settled and more welcome. It also makes you feel that you are appreciated and that you have value within their culture and society.”
The golden visa grants the recipient a 10-year residency in the UAE, and is awarded as a recognition of a person's contribution to society, including in science, culture, business and sport.
Chung, known for his fluent Arabic and ability to speak in various dialects, first made his name in stand-up as a supporting act in the 2007 Axis of Evil Comedy Tour starring comics Ahmed Ahmed, Maz Jobrani, Aron Kader and Dean Obeidallah.
Born in Jeddah to a South Korean father and Vietnamese mother, and raised in Jordan, he arrived in Dubai in 2004 to work as an editor for a range of broadcasters.
He has since gained fame as a comedian and actor in various Arabic TV shows, and as a television presenter.
Chung says he didn’t intend to stay for long when he first moved to the city, but like many others, he kept extending.
“The speed at which Dubai has been growing, it also makes you evolve as a person much faster and makes you want to do more,” Chung says. “And the UAE is always aspiring to do things that are mind-boggling. I mean… we have sent probes to Mars.
“It’s like everything is possible here. The harder you work, the more you’re rewarded and that’s a great mantra for a country that wants to be the best.”
Chung is also an honorary tourism ambassador for South Korea in the UAE, and he says it’s a role close to his heart.
“We’ve been working on a number of projects to bring UAE and South Korea together. I have done TV shows and travel shows promoting the UAE in Korea and vice versa. It’s amazing to be able to do that for my home country and my adopted home.”
After his return to the stage last year with his stand-up show Life in Quarantine in Dubai, Chung says he’s been working on a number of projects and hopes to reveal them soon.
"I have always enjoyed being in front of the camera and I have a few shows in the pipeline. We are discussing a few ideas, ranging from a game show to a talk show and hopefully that will be signed off soon,” he reveals. “I am also working on a podcast that will be filmed and recorded in the UAE but with a very international outlook.”
The golden visa encourages him to do more for the UAE, he says.
“There are so many things I have achieved in my career here which I don’t think would have been possible somewhere else. It would have taken much longer,” he says. “The UAE advances you. If you put in the effort, the country will recognise you.”