AFRICANGLOBE – South Korea’s largest tobacco firm announced that it will this month pull an advertising campaign after accusations of racism.
Posters across the country featured monkeys dressed as news reporters declaring: “Africa is coming”, as part of a “This Africa” line.
The campaign was widely criticised by the public online, with one forum user commenting “They basically turned cigarette-making Africans into cigarette-making monkeys . . . isn’t this racism?”
The cigarette packet itself depicts two monkeys roasting tobacco leaves over a fire, roasting and drying them in the “traditional” African manner. The African Control Alliance issued a statement calling for the withdrawal of the ad, saying: “We are deeply offended by KT&G’s shameless and insulting use of this mocking imagery,” it views the ads as “at a minimum culturally insensitive.”
It went on to say that “mocking Africa to sell a product that causes death and disease is unacceptable and we will not stand for the exploitation of Africa by tobacco companies.”
KT&G responded that the controversy was “regrettable” and that ads would be pulled this month to “dispel concerns of racism.”
“To calm controversy caused by the company’s unintended message, KT&G is making a new advertisement”, said a company spokesperson.
The firm clarified that it did not deem the images on the packet as offensive and so these will not be changed.
“The negative reactions were totally unexpected as nobody raised the racism issue during the design process. Since this product contains leaves produced by the traditional African style, we only tried to adopt images that symbolise the nature of Africa . . . We absolutely had no intention to offend anyone and only chose monkeys because they are delightful animals that remind people of Africa,” said the spokesperson.
However, the KT&G said the cigarette packet images would remain, as the company does not consider them to be offensive.
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