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NBC apologizes after a Winter Olympics analyst's comments set off a firestorm

David Choi
  • NBC's Olympic Asian analyst Joshua Cooper Ramo made comments that many people viewed as culturally insensitive during the Winter Olympics.
  • The network has issued an apology, and said in a statement that Ramo "will have no further role on our air."

An NBC commentator was taken off the air over some remarks he made that were deemed insensitive to Japan-South Korean relations.

The network said Joshua Cooper Ramo was dismissed after he said "every Korean will tell you that Japan is a cultural, technological, and economic example, has been so important to their own transformation." His comments were seen an inflammatory to many South Koreans and foreign-policy experts.

Ramo did however acknowledge that Japan "occupied Korea from 1910 to 1945."

NBC responded to the backlash in a statement to Reuters: "Joshua Cooper Ramo has completed his responsibilities for NBC in Pyeongchang, and will have no further role on our air," an NBC spokesman told the news wire service.

Japan's occupation of the Korean Peninsula was marked with humanitarian atrocities ranging from forced prostitution of Korean women to forced labour. Though relations between the two nations have arguably improved, Japan's occupation still remains a provocative subject for many South Koreans, particularly among the older generation. Disputes over its shared past are still a point of contention today.

South Koreans and foreign-policy experts decried Ramo's remarks:

Severalonline petitions with thousands of supporters have surfaced amid the criticism.

"Any reasonable person familiar with the history of Japanese imperialism, and the atrocities it committed before and during WWII, would find such statement deeply hurtful and outrageous," a petition with over 15,900 supporters said. "And no, no South Korean would attribute the rapid growth and transformation of its economy, technology, and political/cultural development to the Japanese imperialism."

The Pyeongchang Organising Committee said that it "informed NBC of the errors in their commentary and the sensitivity of the subject in Korea," according to Reuters.

NBC Sports anchor Carolyn Manno issued a statement for Ramo's comments following the public backlash:

"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.' We understand the Korean people were insulted by these comments and we apologise."

Ramo left the network after the Olympic opening ceremony. Though media reports suggested he was involuntarily fired, an NBC Sports executive reportedly noted that Ramo was contracted only for the opening ceremony and that his employment came to a natural end.