(MENAFN - AFP) South Korea's top tobacco firm said on Wednesday it would pull ads for its new "This Africa" brand of cigarettes after complaints the use of images of apes dressed as humans was racist.
KT&G launched the brand about a month ago, with a promotional hook that the cigarettes used tobacco that was roasted and dried in a "traditional" African style.
The packet carries a graphic of two monkeys roasting tobacco leaves over an open fire.
Advertising panels and posters for the product -- displayed at convenience stores nationwide -- feature chimpanzees dressed as a news anchor and a news reporter, announcing the slogan "Africa is coming!"
The African Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA) issued a recent statement calling for the posters to be withdrawn.
"We are deeply offended by KT&G's shameless and insulting use of this mocking imagery," the ATCA said in a statement.
"Mocking Africa to sell a product that causes death and disease is unacceptable," it said.
The adverts were also criticised on a number of South Korean online forums.
"They basically turned cigarette-making Africans into cigarette-making monkeys ... isn't this racism?" wrote one commentator.
KT&G called the controversy "regrettable" and said it would pull the ads this month 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," the company spokeswoman told AFP.
"Since this product contains leaves produced by the traditional African style, we only tried to adopt images that symbolise the nature of Africa," she said.
The firm did not view the image on the pack as offensive and had no plan to change it, she added.