You learn something new everyday, as they say, and it was only when I came across this article by chance (HERE), that I discovered that black actors in Korean films and television shows, are only a very recent thing. How recent? Since around 2010.
To be honest, the notion didn’t even cross my mind; but with Korea being such a homogeneous territory (divided into two sovereign states, North and South Korea) unlike the U.S. or most of Europe or South America, I suppose it should not be surprising.
The guy in the image at the top has been making history, in a way.
He’s Sam Okyere; and he is, by all accounts, only the second black actor to appear in a Korean film – a South Korean comedy thriller called “Intimate Enemies,” which was released last year.
Born in Ghana, he came to South Korea in 2009 as a government scholar in order to pursue a degree in computer engineering. During that time, he decided to pursue acting as a way to expand his experiences and understanding of the culture and decided to try to get into acting and modeling.
Fortunately for him, his timing was perfect. South Korean TV at the time had decided to diversify its casting with non-Koreans, as a means to get them involved in Korean culture and to learn what they can from the outside world.
As a result, Okyere started appearing regularly on television there, and has been since 2013, eventually becoming a regular cast member on the South Korean talk show, “Non-Summit,” which
features a panel of non-Korean men living in the country, who debate various topics related to Korean culture.
From there, he moved into movies with “Intimate Enemies,” in which he also breaks ground, since his character in the film is married to a Korean woman, with whom he also has a child – a daughter played by Egypt Yuna Collier, who herself is actually multi-racial – Korean and African American. The film marked the first time that a mixed couple was seen in a Korean feature film.
But I should note that the honor for the first black actor to appear in a Korean feature goes to Abu-Bonsrah Kwaku Dad, who plays the lead character’s best friend in the 2010 film “Haunters.”
Like Okyere, Dad was also a Ghanaian student at a South Korean university when he got the role; there’s no information as to whether he has appeared in any other Korean films since then. He doesn’t match the popularity or success of Okyere in South Korean TV and films.
True, two black actors, after all this time, is no indication of a revolution; but you have to start somewhere I suppose.
Below is the trailer for “Intimate Enemies.” But perhaps not surprisingly, you’ll have to watch it closely to see Okyere in it. He appear very briefly: