A notice on Korean Air's website announcing the start of flights from Korea to Kenya described Kenyans as people full of "primitive energy." Kenyans did not take kindly to that and thousands responded with a barrage of tweets and Facebook postings.
AFP reports that the Korean Air issued an apology on Monday for the ad that appeared to celebrate the "primitive energy" of Kenyans. The ad, according to AFP, said: "Fly Korean Air and enjoy the grand African Savanna, the safari tour, and the indigenous people full of primitive energy."
AP reports that a Kenyan, George Njoro, tweeted: "An insult to a nation. Kenya doesn't have primitive people."
AFP observes that some of the tweets showed that many Kenyans were more amused than angry at what they might have considered the ignorance of the airline. According to AFP, a Kenyan tweeted: "Thinking of lion hunting today and maybe some elephant baiting to deal with my #PrimitiveEnergy."
Another Kenyan announced: "I use #PrimitiveEnergy every morning to rise from my bed."
After the unrelenting barrage of partly angry and partly spoofing tweets, the airline issued an apology on its website that said:
"Regarding our recent promotional notice of Nairobi, we are checking on this issue accordingly. We sincerely apologize for this situation."AP reports that Muthui Kariuki, public relations officer for Korean Air in Kenya, said the notice has been removed from the airline's website. He explained that the word "primitive" was an error in translating the intended meaning in Korean to the English language.
Many Kenyans have disputed the claim that the offensive language was the result of error of translation. Some Kenyans alleged that the translation was a calculated marketing gimmick. AP reports that Komboste tweeted: "Now everybody knows Korea Air is coming to Kenya. Nice marketing strategy."
Korean Air is scheduled to launch thrice-weekly flights form Korea to Kenya on Thursday. Kenya is a regional hub where passengers connect to flights to other countries in East Africa. According to AP, several international airlines operate from Kenya, including Air India, British Airways, Emirates, KLM, Qatar Airways, Saudi Arabian Airlines, South Africa Airways, Swiss International Air Lines and Virgin Atlantic.
AFP reports that this is the second time in a week that East Africans have responded to comments they considered condescending. Last week, the Spanish press revealed that Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, sent an SMS advising his finance minister to stand firm in negotiations with the European Union, allegedly saying: "Spain is not Uganda."