Ghanaian television personality Sam Okyere, is not afraid to admit that he stands out on Korean TV shows because of his race and skin colour.
Speaking over the phone from Seoul, Okyere says: “If I’m frank, it’s because I’m black. There have not been too many black entertainers on Korean TV.
“Just for the fact that I speak Korean, I love their culture, I want to bond with the people. I want to do something that a normal foreigner wouldn’t. I think that’s what Koreans want.”
Okyere arrived in Seoul in 2009 on a Korean government scholarship to pursue a computer engineering degree at Sogang University. He graduated earlier this year.
So far, being a foreigner has worked to Okyere’s advantage and earned him TV gigs. The outspoken lad first caught the attention of producers during a recording of TV station KBS talkshow Hello Counsellor last summer, in which he spoke candidly about racial discrimination.
He went on to star in Korean cable network tvN’s reality TV show, Island Village Teachers, in which foreign celebrities teach local pupils on an island.
The chatty Okyere has snagged a regular gig as one of the 11 foreign panellists on new talk show Abnormal Summit (above) on Korean cable network JTBC. He has also made guest appearances on game show Running Man and talk show Happy Together.
Though Okyere has landed meatier roles on TV recently, he recalls earlier appearances where he was on the receiving end of jokes about his African heritage.
“The jokes get old. The period of ‘Oh I thought Africans run after lions and run in the jungle’ is slowly coming to an end. People are realising that people from Africa are not like that. They realise that Africans live their lives just like they do,” says Okyere.
He is known affectionately by his nickname, made up of the numbers 5, 7 and 2 in Korean, which sounds similar to the pronunciation of his surname.
The verbose Okyere has big dreams beyond a TV career. He hopes to do his part as a “black representative” and create awareness about his home country and adopted home South Korea.
He says: “I get fan mail from people all over the world. Just the fact that they want to visit Ghana, it’s big for me.”
He has already got his first official appointment as an ambassador to promote seaweed from the small fishing town of Wando in South Korea.
He says with glee: “I love to eat seaweed. I ate a lot on the show Island Village Teachers. It was an honour to be made an ambassador.”