Sam Okyere, a famous Ghanaian television personality active in South Korea, got into an endless stream of backlash and controversy by the public, both international and Korean. On August 6th, the 29-year-old television star shared his outrage and disappointment in an Instagram post saying, “Time and time again why won’t people get that blackface is very offensive and not funny at all!!” about a photo of high school students in South Korea.
On Aug. 6th Sam objected to the use of Blackface in the depiction. pic.twitter.com/k6aTCiDsbD
— 𝓙𝓪𝔂 • 𝓜𝓾𝓵𝓽𝓲 (@QuxnJay) August 26, 2020
The photo included five boys with their faces painted brown holding a coffin, replicating the ‘Coffin Dance Meme’ part of their quirky high school graduation ceremony. The ceremony has students dress up as famous memes, and characters in their graduation photography.
The whole situation is upsetting. Okyere’s post ended up gathering a huge backlash for multitude of reasons. First, the Korean public took offense by his choice of wording. He used words such as ‘educate’ and ‘ignorance’ which have heavier implications in the Korean language.
Many were angered that Okyere didn’t blur the faces of the high school students, which he globally shammed on his Instagram of 200k followers. This exposed them to a possible cyber attack by thousands of people.
Most Koreans also felt betrayed by his remarks portraying whole Korea as ‘a racist country’. Okyere rose to fame because his Korean audience made him into the beloved personality that he is. They provided him with the platform that he used against them. Ironically, the original dancer of the coffin dance meme Benjamin Aidoo posted the pictures of the students with the caption “heart emoji Uijeongbu High School #Korea heart emoji.” Clearly the creator of this meme didn’t take offense like Okyere.
Social media users were also quick to point Okyere’s double standards. Past footage of his racist behavior mocking the Asians was resurfaced. One user tweeted out the racist image and said “So Sam Okyere is complaining Koreans making “black face” and how it is racist but he also proceeds to do slanted Asian eyes multiple time on variety television. Maybe you should stop being racist first before you complain about others. #racism #samokyere”
So Sam Okyere is complaining about Koreans making "black face" and how it is racist but he also proceeds to do slanted Asian eyes multiple time on variety television. Maybe you should stop being racist first before you complain about others. #racism #samokyere pic.twitter.com/JwJnW0il6C
— Ken2000 (@JoeWang6) August 25, 2020
After a huge wave of backlash, Okyere posted an apology on Instagram. He said, “I apologize for causing controversy due to my post. I had no intention to attack the students. I just wanted to state my opinion, but I crossed the line, and I’m sorry that I didn’t get permission to post the students pictures. I respect their privacy. In that part, I admit my fault.” Though seemingly sincere, this apology didn’t slow the amount of backlash coming towards him.
Instead of you correcting and saying that “he wont be deported don’t worry” why don’t we unpack how you instantly dismisses a black man who vented about the violent anti blackness that Sam Okyere is facing in Korea for speaking out about blackface in the country https://t.co/JRIMBfr8Qh
— T i g e r I n s i d e 🐅 (@nctbussyy) August 10, 2020
An upset audience petitioned for the deportation of Sam Okyere back to his home country Ghana for reasons of deceiving South Korea and violating the rights of students. This petition has gone viral on Twitter, but it had achieved very few signatures and quickly was deleted from the Internet.
On the brighter side of things, another petition was made with the title of “I Petition for better education on racism in the Korean public education system” requesting better education on racism, and public education system in general attracting way more signatures than the previous petition.
— LiLi⁷ ❂ ⟭⟬ ᴮᴸᴹ is streaming dynamite (@issahelina) August 11, 2020
Later on, this situation seemed to calm down and Okyere resumed his activities as a guest celebrity in variety shows. Just when we think we found the silver lining of this story, Okyere gets canceled once again for alleged sexual harassment.
This time an old post of Okyere’s Instagram sparked attention and became the topic of a heated debate. Last march he posted a picture with the actress ‘Park Eun Hye’ with the captain “We are orange caramel” referencing their orange outfits. Beneath that post a comment said “Cute once you go black you never go back. Lol” Okyere replied saying “Preach!” That comment led the Korean public to believe that Sam was sexually harassing the actress.
Sam Okyere agreeing with the comment on the Korean actress Park Eun Hye is wrong. It's sexual harassment. In Korea, we don't even talk like that about our female friends. It's worse if you consider that she probably didn't even know what they were saying about her. pic.twitter.com/Ik2hb53hVN
— 둥둥 (@xJoon2x) August 26, 2020
The public started digging deeper into his past, and found footage of him in a television show called ‘Radio Star’. In the episode he scanned the featured model/actress’s body, and when the MC said, “Don’t scan her body too much from head to toe”, Sam replied saying “in Ghana we look at the body first”. This resulted into an explosive reaction from the public, and ultimately leading the TV star to delete his Instagram.