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Sam Okyere quits show after attacks from internet users

Sam Okyere, a Ghanaian television personality who is one of the most popular foreign celebrities in Korea, quit the famous cable quiz show where he appeared regularly after a series of controversies surrounding him.

Officials of MBC Every1, the cable channel in charge of the production and distribution of quiz show "South Korean Foreigners," said Okyere voluntarily stepped down from the show and will not appear starting with the 101st episode. They declined to elaborate on the reason for Okyere's resignation. His last appearance will be made in the 100th episode on Wednesday.

The program is designed to show a number of foreigners living in Korea, including him, competing with Korean celebrities to show how much they know about Korea. Okyere, who is known for his fluent Korean language ability, modeling and affection toward Korea, was one of the main contestants on the show and one of the very few black celebrities active in the Korean entertainment industry. He rose to stardom after appearing in multiple TV shows including JTBC's "Abnormal Summit" and MBC's "Radio Star."

His resignation came after Okyere faced a series of attacks from internet users after he released a statement on racism. He uploaded on Instagram last month a picture of Uijeongbu High School students wearing blackface and dressed as Ghana's dancing pallbearers, expressing in the caption his disappointment at the use of blackface in Korea, the need for education about these matters and saying "This ignorance cannot continue!" Following Okyere's post, racial sensitivity in Korean society became a topic of public debate. Some said he is too "sensitive" over the matter while some claimed that it was inappropriate for the TV personality to upload the students' picture without their consent. Some backed him by launching the hashtag #I_Stand_with_Sam_Okyere.

Even though some supported him, criticism and condemnation continued against him, which led Okyere to apologize for "causing trouble." He wrote on Instagram that "I didn't mean to belittle the students. I just wanted to make my statement but I crossed the line. I apologize for uploading a picture of students without their consent… I also didn't mean to talk about Korean education."

However, the controversy entered a new phase when media and internet users accused him of making sexist remarks against women and of racist behavior toward Asians in the past, which may have contributed to him quitting the show. He was accused of endorsing a sexually suggestive comment about a picture of him with an actress. He captioned an Instagram post in 2019 with the phrase "Orange is the new black," to describe a photo of himself with actress Park Eun-hye wearing orange clothes. When someone left a comment saying "Once you go black, you never go back," he replied "preach."

Some raised an allegation that he made a racist gesture against Asian people during an episode of "Abnormal Summit" where he appears to make the "slant-eyes" gesture by pulling the corner of his eyes with his fingers. He denied the claim on the BBC, saying "The context was, we were talking about ugly faces, a contest in Spain, and we were trying to do ugly faces. So there was no intent of mocking Koreans or Asians. That wouldn't make any sense because I work and live in Korea."







source: The Korea Times
Tags: cultural insensitivity / racism, mbc, sam okyere
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