South Korea’s largest tobacco company has promised to change an advertising campaign after accusations of racism.
Posters promoting a new line of cigarettes featured pictures of monkeys dressed as news reporters, declaring “Africa is coming!”
The cigarettes are part of a new This Africa line. The company, KT&G, says they contain African tobacco roasted and dried in a traditional fashion.
The cigarette packets contain images of monkeys roasting tobacco.
“We are deeply offended by KT&G’s shameless and insulting use of this mocking imagery,” said the African Tobacco Control Alliance in a statement calling for the withdrawal of the ad campaign, saying it was “at a minimum culturally insensitive”.
It added: “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.”
The advertisements were displayed at convenience shops across the country.
A KT&G company spokeswoman told news agency AFP it would pull the ads this month.
She called the controversy “regrettable” and said the company wished to “dispel concerns of racism”.
“We absolutely had no intention to offend anyone and 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 symbolise the nature of Africa.”
However, she said the cigarette packet images would remain, as the company does not consider them to be offensive.