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Was This South Korean Cigarette Ad Racist?

Was the ad from a Korean cigarette brand racist? The largest tobacco company in South Korea has removed an advertising campaign for their first This Africa line of cigarettes after accusations of racism and cultural insensitivity. KT&G has since issued a public apology and said the ad had no ill intent behind it.

The posters for the This Africa line of cigarettes feature monkeys dressed as news reporters declaring “Africa is coming!” The packet also contains images of monkeys roasting tobacco. The African Tobacco Control Alliance said in a statement that the posters were “at a minimum culturally insensitive” and declared they were “deeply offended by KT&G shameless and insulting use of this mocking imagery.”

A spokeswoman for the tobacco company said the ads would be pulled this month, but the cigarette packet images would remain. She also denied any intentions to be racist with the campaign.

“We…only chose monkeys because they are delightful animals that remind people of Africa,” she said. “Since this product contains leaves produced by the traditional African style, we only tried to adopt images that symbolize the nature of Africa.”

Biracial men were banned from serving in the South Korean military until January 2011, and a 2009 poll showed 47 percent of Korean children felt uncertain or negative as to whether they could be friends with a biracial child.

(Photo: AFP)

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