Korean Air Learns That Kenya’s “Indigenous People Full Of Primitive Energy” Are Active On Twitter

What started as an attempt by Korean Air to promote its flights between Inchon, Korea, and Nairobia, Kenya, has ended with the airline having to apologize to a lot of people who aren’t thrilled with the airline’s suggestion that people visit Kenya to see its “indigenous people full of primitive energy.”

The ad has since been taken out of circulation, though as of right now, this link shows the entire thing on Korean Air site.

Once news about the ad hit the Internet, the response from Twitter users with the #primitiveenergy hashtag — was immediate and wide-ranging, from the irate:

To the humorous:

To the Photoshopped:

Korean Air’s Twitter account spent most of the day responding with the following:
“Regarding our recent promotional notice of Nairobi, we are checking on this issue accordingly.We sincerely apologize for this situation.”

And then posted this:
“The recent feedback of our notice of Nairobi had been removed from our website, and we will resume the page after revision.”

Once again, much like the Starbucks goof in Ireland, big companies need to realize that putting things out on Twitter is immediate and, in spite of the fact that you can delete the original Tweet, can take on a life of its own.

Korean Airlines: Failure to launch [Al Jazeera]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Cacao says:

    Maybe it sounds better in Korean?

  2. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    Where can you see lions?
    Only in Kenya
    Come to Kenya we’ve got lions

  3. orion43 says:

    People are too sensitive. Obvious translation error, move along.

  4. Galium says:

    Just another translation problem that has happened before and will again. Some concepts, product names and words do not translate well. The part that is getting real scary is that people have nothing better to do then go virale all the time. It seems that they are waiting to pounce on the next virale fad, most only lasting a day or two. It is like a bunch of A.D.D. electronic junkies. Look something shiny just went by.

    • Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

      I better trademark “Virale” because it’s about to go viral.

    • nicless says:

      Even if it is a “translation” error… you gotta check that before you put it in public. So say a French site puts out an ad saying, “Flights straight to Detroit, see some negroes in their slumtastic public housing!” would be ok because, hey in French they said “Flights straight to Detroit where the strong people live in luxury”!?

    • nugatory says:

      ohhh shiny! I’m sorry did you say somethings?

    • Duke_Newcombe-Making children and adults as fat as pigs says:

      Virale. Isn’t that the Italian Internet marketing firm I heard about?

  5. Important Business Man (Formerly Will Print T-shirts For Food) says:

    I’m sure Google Translator had something to do with this.

  6. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    “we will resume the page after revision.”

    Sounds like a ride interruption at Disneyland.

  7. Liam Kinkaid says:

    Is primitive energy like what happened right after the Big Bang? I don’t even understand the phrase!

  8. Nicolaus99 says:

    Engrish Korean Air ads sounding bizarrely racist without technically trying? This reads like a Failblog entry.

  9. TheMansfieldMauler says:

    Nairobi’s people do not have primitive energy. Some days it works for as many as 10 hours. Hours people. Does that sound primitive to you?

  10. Blueskylaw says:

    Wait a second, that noise I kept hearing was primitive energy?
    I thought it was the cicadas going through their 7 year cycle again.

  11. gman863 says:

    This one is sure to make the engrish.com web site.

  12. Coffee Fiend says:

    Wi not trei a holiday in Nairobi this yer ? See the loveli lakes
    The wonderful telephone system
    And mani indigenous people full of primitive energi…..

    • LMA says:

      The moose who wrote the previous credits has been sacked. Now he lives back in Maine with the primitive people and their methamphetamines.

  13. missminimonster says:

    When I was in Asia (and, granted, it was China and not Korea) they did seem to have rather interesting ideas about people from other countries. Maybe that was the case here.

    • tooluser says:

      People in countries outside the U.S.A. generally have no idea what is to live with people different from themselves. The whole idea of “country” was turned on its head when the U.S.A. was created — before and since, no country has been created that does not serve a single ethnicity to the detriment of others.

      No place like it anywhere else on Earth. Go ahead, name one.

    • Happy Tinfoil Cat says:


      While walking down a street in China, one of the patrons in the back of a restaurant noticed me. He stood up, pointed, and yelled “gwy lo”. The rest of the people in the place all stood up to see me. (queue Godzilla scene) After a couple weeks of this kind of reaction, it gets old. Yes, I know I am white and fat, too. Chinese seem to have absolutely no qualms about pointing out people who are different. In the less developed areas, the reaction is far stronger; they may not only never had seen a person of a different race, but may not even know other races exist.

      • Snaptastic says:

        When I went on a trip to Japan, we (mostly Europeans/Australians/Americans) visited some hot springs and came across a Chinese tour group. I watched some guy look around, then spit into the spring. I gave him a look and commented on how rude that was. He glared at me and started screaming at me in Chinese. I had no idea what he was saying, but the intent was clear and I started fussing back at him in English.

        In retrospect is was kind of humorous, but after a couple weeks of watching the manners of those Chinese tour groups, I can say for sure that I no longer want to visit China.

  14. tooluser says:

    I personally like to travel to areas with out-of-towners not too concerned with tipping random strangers in large denominations of currency…

  15. Emily says:

    Lesson One of Marketers: Do not write marketing copy in a language you do not speak.

  16. Robert says:

    Whats wrong with Indigenous people full of primitive energy?

    In the use of primitive as an adjective, I think the Koreans were right. We know that there are some societies in Kenya that are little evolved from an early ancestral type. Especially in or near Game parks. Read the Masai. We all know that the Tanzanian and Kenyan governments have instituted programs to encourage the Maasai to abandon their traditional semi-nomadic lifestyle, but the people have continued their age-old customs. Recently, Oxfam has claimed that the lifestyle of the Maasai should be embraced as a response to climate change because of their ability to farm in deserts and scrublands. So my question is; Isn’t this primitive energy?

    If you choose to understand primitive according to the Oxford dictionary, this is behaviour or emotion that is apparently originating in unconscious needs or desires and unaffected by objective reasoning. In Kenya, many societies still stick on lifestyles that are still backward and without reasoning eg eating raw blood, drinking uncooked milk, eating fermented or roating meat, avoiding immunization etc despite medical advice not to. We do all this with alot of energy and yet we dont want any form of objective classification. Are you nuts?

    From an Anthropology point of view, primitive is pertaining to a preliterate or tribal people having cultural or physical similarities with their early ancestors or those unaffected or little affected by civilizing influences. I know of some Masai warriors with Mobile phones but the rest of the setting has been little affected by civilisation. Its pathetic to note that we Kenyans choose to leave our kinsmen in that way so as to tap dollars from tourists. These tourists never tour places like the conference center, yaya center etc but yo take them to the primitive guys. On another note, A recent survey of Central and Nairobi provinces by the male advocacy group Maendeleo ya Wanaume (“Progress for Men”) found 460,000 cases of domestic abuse against men, up from 160,000 cases in 2009. Whats up with you?

    Every one knows that; Energy is the capacity of a physical system to do work and there are two main forms of energy i.e potential energy and kinetic energy. In kenya, Potential energy, is not a myth, it had been stored for along time and then released during the post election tribal riots. The Naivasha-kabati violence, persists as a symbol of Kenya’s implosion. Isnt that primitive energy? So why are you pissed?

    Kinetic energy is observable as motion of an object, particle, or set of particles. Examples include the post election violence in 2007. we all know that two of “Ocampo Four” accused of masterminding post-election violence are likely to stand trial at the ICC in March 2013. Isnt this primitive energy? so whats the fuss all about?

    My advise is that all Kenyans should wakeup and style up or else you will be game for tourist viewing in the next few years.

  17. do-it-myself says:

    Oops. Engrish mistake.

  18. mrsj says:

    Primitive energy? Maybe. I’ve been to Nairobi. Many times. Maasai men wrapped in red and purple plaid still walk beside their women who are pregnant, carrying toddlers and toting water. Since it is considered un-manly for the Maasai to help carry things (no joke), they instead are talking on their cell phones.

  19. iesika says:

    This isn’t Engrish. It’s grammatically correct. I’m pretty sure Korean Airlines said exactly what they wanted to say.