NBC has apologized to the nation of South Korea after an analyst of the 2018 Olympic Winter Games made a remark that appeared to attribute the nation’s cultural and economic development to Japanese occupation. The analyst has been removed from commentary for the remainder of the games (video below).
On Feb. 9, NBC Sports analyst Joshua Cooper Ramo provided commentary during the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Ramo ignited controversy when he noted the presence of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
“Now representing Japan, a country which occupied Korea from 1910 to 1945,” Ramo said, according to The Korea Times. “But every Korean will tell you that Japan is a cultural and technological and economic example that has been so important to their own transformation.”
The Japanese occupation of the Korean peninsula during the 20th century remains a source of friction between the two nations. A particularly bitter historical chapter was the Japanese Imperial Army’s enlistment of an estimated 200,000 Korean women to perform as sex slaves, according to The Washington Post.
Ramo’s comment was met with swift and fierce criticism from South Korean viewers.
“Your comments about Korea are absolutely rubbish,” one viewer wrote on social media. “After decades of human rights violations, exploiting our resources, and attempts to destroy our heritage, Japan is nowhere close to being thanked, but absolutely despised.”
“Joshua Cooper Ramo should not speak for Koreans and obviously doesn’t know any Koreans either,” wrote one social media user on Twitter, according to The Korean Herald. “Nobody will tell you we are thankful for Japan occupation and they are not an example.”
A South Korean blogger questioned how Ramo was qualified to offer cultural commentary during Olympic games in South Korea, writing: “How can someone be an ‘Asian correspondent’ and be so clueless?”
The uproar even prompted a group called Sensible Citizens to upload a petition calling for an apology from NBC on the website Care2.
“Any reasonable person familiar with the history of Japanese imperialism, and the atrocities it committed before and during WWII, would find such statement deeply hurftul and outrageous,” the petition stated. “And no, no South Korean would attribute the rapid growth and transformation of its economy, technology, and political/cultural development to the Japanese imperialism.”
On Feb. 10, NBCSN anchor Carolyn Manno read a statement apologizing for Ramo’s remark, MSN reported.
“During our coverage of the Parade of Nations on Friday we said it was notable that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made the trip to Korea for the Olympics ‘representing Japan, a country which occupied Korea from 1910 to 1945 but every Korean will tell you that Japan is a cultural, technological and economic example that has been so important to their own transformation,'” Manno said. “We understand the Korean people were insulted by these comments and we apologize.”
On Feb. 11, the broadcaster had removed Ramo’s profile from NBC Sports’ Pressbox website and announced that he would no longer provide commentary for the Winter Games.
Ramo is a CEO of Kissinger Associates and provided cultural commentary as a China analyst during the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, according to Fox News.