TV Personality in Korea Sparks Debate Over Using Blackface, Doing ‘Slant-eye’

Sam Okyere

Television personality Sam Okyere’s criticism of South Korean students dressed as the dancing pallbearers in Ghana backfired after social media users pointed out that he did a slant-eye gesture on TV in 2015.

The 29-year-old Ghanaian TV personality expressed outrage last week after a picture of students from Uijeongbu High School dressed up as the Ghana Dancing Pallbearers surfaced online, according to Korea Herald.

Okyere called out the photo of the students in “blackface,” describing it as very offensive and “not funny at all.”

“There have been so many instances both on and off air where people paint their faces black here in Korean think it’s funny! It’s not and I am highly against it and highly disappointed,” he wrote in English.

“It is truly unfortunate and saddening that this is occurring in the year 2020,” he said in his now-deleted Instagram post, We Are Resonate reported. “As a black person, black people are very offended by such actions. I understand you wanted to reenact the culture but painting the face was not needed. I wish there aren’t such actions in Korea. Please, let’s respect each other’s cultures.”

However, social media users reminded Okyere about the moment he did a slant-eye gesture in an episode of JTBC’s “Abnormal Summit” in 2015 when he participated in the Ugly Face Competition.

 

Okyere took down his Instagram post following the backlash. He updated his apology in Korean on August 7 and said he had no intention of humiliating the students.

 

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제가 올린 사진과 글 때문에 물의를 일으키게 된 점 죄송합니다. 학생들을 비하하는 의도가 전혀 아니었습니다. 제 의견을 표현하려고 했는데 선을 넘었고 학생들의 허락 없이 사진을 올려서 죄송합니다. 저는 학생들의 프라이버시를 존중합니다. 그 부분에서 잘 못했습니다. 그리고 영어로 쓴 부분이, 한국의 교육이 잘못되었다는것이 절대 아닙니다. 해석하는 부분에 오해가 있어 죄송하다는 말씀을 드립니다. 한국의 교육을 언급한 것이 아니었는데 충분히 오해가 생길 만한 글이었습니다. Teakpop 차체가 한국Kpop 대해서 안좋은 얘기를 하는 줄 몰랐습니다. 알았으면 이 해시택을 전혀 쓰지 않았을 겁니다. 너무 단순하게 생각을 했습니다. 제가 한국에서 오랫동안 사랑을 많이 받았었는데 이번일들로 인해서 좀 경솔했던 것 같습니다. 다시 한번 죄송하다는 말씀드리고 싶습니다. 앞으로 더 배운 샘 오취리가 되겠습니다.

A post shared by 샘 오취리 Sam Okyere (@samokyere1) on

“I had gone too far in expressing my opinion, and I apologize for using their picture without their consent,” he said, adding that he did not mean to belittle the Korean education with his criticism. He also admitted that he was unaware of the hashtag #teakpop, a derogatory expression used on social media when discussing Korean pop culture.

“I had received a big love for a long time in South Korea, and I believe I was indiscreet this time,” he said. “I apologize again. I will become a more educated person.”

Despite the criticism, Okyere did receive support for his objection to blackface, with the hashtag #I_Stand_with_Sam_Okyere, Korea JoongAng Daily reported.

“Korean society must learn. We must reflect on our ‘ignorance’ and we need an ‘education.’ For sure,” culture critic Son Hee-jung said on her Facebook page.

Feature Image (left) via JTBC Entertainment, (left) Nana Otafrija Pallbearing & Waiting Services

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