The Korea Herald


'Go back to Africa' ad ignites racism debate in Korea

By Lee Jaeeun

Published : July 19, 2023 - 14:49

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An advertisement for supplements with racist content. (Professor Seo Kyung-duk's Instagram) An advertisement for supplements with racist content. (Professor Seo Kyung-duk's Instagram)

A company that sells supplements for children posted an advertisement on social media in which an illustrated Black character is asked whether she is from Africa, and then told to go back to her country. The advertisement was taken after public outcry over its racist overtones.

The company recently posted an animated advertisement on Instagram to promote supplements that it advertises as effective in whitening skin for children. This supplement contains ingredients such as glutathione powder, aloe vera gel, vitamin C, collagen and omega-3.

In the advertisement, a girl with dark skin bursts into tears when a paler skinned girl asks her, "Are you African? Go back to your country!" The advertisement came under fire as soon as it was released.

Many Korean netizens slammed the ad. "It's a ridiculous advertisement in this day and age," one wrote.

Amid the backlash, the company halted the ad's distribution on social media on Monday.

One anonymous individual posted a message on an online community, saying that he or she personally complained to the company.

"When I asked the company what it was thinking when posting an advertisement that encouraged racism or xenophobia, it apologized and explained that a public relations agency made the advertisement," the post read.

The netizen added that even if a public relations agency made the advertisement, the company still confirmed it and uploaded it.

Seo Kyung-duk, a professor at Sungshin Women's University in Seoul and outspoken activist for issues related to South Korean sovereignty, wrote in an Instagram post that he was "very shocked to see" the advertisement.

"This advertisement contains explicitly racist content. I'm worried that young children will imitate the racist behavior depicted in this advertisement," he wrote.

Seo stressed the need to abolish racial discrimination. "How sad was it when Korean soccer players who play overseas suffered from racism? We Koreans must not be racist first, even in order to properly protest their racism," he emphasized.