You don’t know may not be his name, and still less its history relayed in the last year in some of the Korean media, but Suh Kwan-woo is one of the 30 métis children born to mothers with liberian and Korean father at the end of the 1980s, when the company Daewoo E & C constructed a highway between Monrovia, Liberia and Freetown, Sierra Leone. His father already had a wife and two daughters in South Korea, but he spent a year with the future mother of Kwan-woo. This last is pregnant and the father returned to his country. More than twenty-nine years later, Kwan-woo has gone on in the footsteps of this unknown father.

His story has directly inspired the producers of the series Itaewon Class, which proved a massive hit anywhere in South Korea and on the platform Netflix ? We came into contact with him. The young man looked at Itaewon Class and had the sense to see his own story told on the screen. He even noticed jokingly that he would have been able to ” play the role of Toni “, one of the main characters of the series and metis like himself.

Kim, Toni and his colleagues on one of the rooftoops that make the fame of this area of Itaewon, in Seoul. © JTBC

The story of Toni, inspired from real facts ?

When we discover the character of Kim Toni for the first time, he goes to a job interview to be a server in the pub-Sae-ro-yi. He is not hired because of his RESUME, but because of his appearance : He is black, therefore he must “necessarily” have to speak English, and able to accommodate the international clientele without problem.

Except that Toni has said from the start : he is Korean by his father, guinean by his mother, he speaks both Korean and French fluently, but certainly not English. Unfortunately, his announcement was greeted by looks skeptical. Physically, it does not look like a Korean, and as his papers will not indicate clearly that it is Korean, there will be just a foreigner in the country of his father. Unfortunately, the young man finds himself in a delicate situation, since it is precisely came to Seoul to find her father. The latter lived in Guinea with him and his mother, but, one day, he returned to Korea and has not given sign of life.

this All started from a webtoon (comics Korean online) which is adapted in the series. The director has put all the chances on his side by choosing for the main role (Park Seo-joon – one of the most popular of the moment – and asking Kwang-end, the author of the webtoon original, to look after the writing of the episodes, without the help of writers professional, is rather unusual.

Originally, the character of Toni was not in the comic. “I felt that some elements were missing in the webtoon, and that this was an opportunity to correct them by myself through the series “, explained to the press the author of the COMIC line. “There are a lot of stories that I could not tell in the original version. “

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characters in the margins

By itself, the plot is gripping, but if Itaewon Class has conquered the hearts of the viewers, it is in large part thanks to the protagonists :

Park Sae-ro-yi, a former inmate, decided to open a pub in Itaewon, a trendy area of Seoul. His goal ? Prosper and become powerful enough to avenge the clan Jang. This family, which is at the head of a chain of restaurants with a reputation, has ruined his plans for the future and is the cause of the death of his father.

To accomplish this vengeance, long-term, it is going to be shouldered by its employees : a gifted sociopath, a former comrade of cell, a chef who is transgender, and Toni, a Guinean of Korean origin.

The inequalities and taboos of society are exposed to the big day through these five young people. Regarded by society as outcasts, they are struggling to emancipate themselves, each in their own way.

It is rare to see so much “diversity” in a single and even drama (the name given to the series asian) and it is very inspiring. All the more that this gallery of portraits is also what is Korea today. The proportion of immigrants has doubled in the last ten years to represent 4 % of the south Korean population. But the discrimination is strong, and often assumed. It is not uncommon to hear in the transport of people accusing him openly of aliens to be dirty or smell bad. They sometimes refuse the input of the restaurants.

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reality, without eye-shadow

Guest in the show Tea Time with David on YouTube, Chris Lyon, the american actor who plays Toni, said : “whether they are Black or of any other person of color, it is really very rare to see us represented in leading roles on the screen. And this is not just a matter of ethnicity, but also sexual orientation, minorities in general. “The young man has been living in Korea for six years now, and he masters it almost perfectly to the Korean language. Music producer, he became an actor recently. When he learned that he had won the role of Toni, he said that he was ” on another planet “. “It is not every day that a role like this presents itself “, he stressed. “I found that it was an enormous step forward. “In fact, the character of Toni allows to tackle the issues typically absent in Korean television dramas, namely racism and discrimination. It will, in particular, is to repress to a nightclub that prohibits entry to customers ” from Africa and the Middle East.”

The american actor, a native of Connecticut, Chris Lyon plays the role of Kim To-ni in the series. © JTBCDans real life, Chris Lyon has already lived through such scenes several times : “Sometimes, you are told in the face : “Here, we don’t accept Blacks”, sometimes, we’ll rather say “the foreigners”. Generally, the argument advanced is that, in the past foreigners have caused trouble. With this kind of scenes, the series has tried to stick as close as possible to reality, without trying to soften the unpleasant aspects. “

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Itaewon, a multicultural neighbourhood

Located in Seoul, in the district of Yongsan, the district Itaewon is famous for being the most cosmopolitan of the country, to the point of being dubbed ” the global village of Korea.” Itaewon is built around a u.s. military base in the 1950s and, over time, has experienced significant commercial development. Today, many expatriates reside, and the area is frequented by tourists than Koreans. Of the cultures and traditions from around the world permeate the restaurants, the pubs, the clubs and the shops of Itaewon. In fact, some african students that we had met in Seoul last year, we had explained that, for them, it was sort of a key location : it is in Itaewon as they go to get their hair done, for example. When Bethel, who comes from Ethiopia, has the evil of the country, she eats in a restaurant ethiopian located in this district. As for Shanice, originally from Burundi, she explained that in Seoul it was sometimes almost “the impression to be in Africa” thanks to Itaewon. When she wants to prepare a meal, ” the african “, she goes there to do some shopping, even if the ingredients are not always exactly ” the same taste “.

Read also Korea – Giyoun Kim : “Collaborating with the Africa, is collaborating with the world”

Displays the new series produced by Netflix. © JTBC

writing will advise you

Dominique Saatenang : “Help to offer a different vision of life “”I’m gone(e) study in South Korea,” Korea – Giyoun Kim : “Collaborating with the Africa, is collaborating with the world,” Emmanuel Sanou, a choreographer, african, South Korea Seoul Africa Festival : Africa raises the foot in South Korea Laure Mafo, a voice franco-african in Korea