Ghanaian TV entertainer in Korea, Sam Okyere was recently involved in controversy following his criticism of blackface in a Korean high school which ultimately backfired on the star.
When Sam Okyere shared photos of the high school students and made criticisms against blackface and stressed the importance of better awareness, netizens attacked Sam Okyere for revealing the identities of underage children, using a hashtag of a group that criticizes K-Pop in his post, and belittling Asians in a past episode of JTBC‘s Abnormal Summit.
Furthermore, the high school where the blackface parody took place stressed that it was nothing but a parody with no ill intent.
And Sam Okyere spoke with BBC News about the controversy.
Sam Okyere, who originally studied abroad in Korea, began by addressing the Koreans’ perception of black people.
I came to Korea to study. I was one of the few black people in school. I began my work as an entertainer in hopes to get rid of the cultural distance between Korea and Africa. There are many nations in Africa. But Koreans aren’t exposed to very much diversity. It’s easy for them to accept the images portrayed on the media. Most Koreans learn about black people through TV and movies. As a result, the identity of black people is formed depending on how they’re portrayed on the media.
— Sam Okyere
He then went on to address the blackface controversy.
Many people misunderstood. They’re saying I criticized the students, but that’s not true. I knew the students didn’t do the parody to hurt anyone. It was the result of wrong knowledge, and not for the intent of ridicule. The issue of blackface can be considered as a taboo in countries with diverse cultures. But since it’s an unfamiliar topic in Korea, I wanted to address it. Koreans didn’t know the history behind blackface, and I criticized the tendency to make such behavior taboo. But no matter where you go, there are negative people who speak with louder voices, and that’s why it turned into a controversy.
— Sam Okyere
Lastly, Sam Okyere clarified his intent behind the screenshot from JTBC’s Abnormal Summit that many criticize to be racist against Asians.
I only made that face when we were talking about the ugly face competition in Spain. I’m living and working in Korea. Why would I belittle Korean people? I wasn’t trying to belittle anyone. But I understand if it was perceived in a negative light.
— Sam Okyere