Americans oftentimes criticize NBC’s coverage of the Opening Ceremony for the high amount of voiceover during the ceremony, but South Koreans were angered by NBC Asia analyst Joshua Cooper Ramo’s commentary on Japanese-Korean relations.
Ramo, the vice chairman and co-chief executive of Kissinger Associates, said during the proceedings that Japan had “which occupied Korea from 1910 to 1945” which is true, but also an understatement (many Korean women were subjected to sex slavery, although exact numbers are in dispute). However, Ramo then said, “But every Korean will tell you that Japan as a cultural and technological and economic example has been so important to their own transformation.”
That remark outraged Koreans and over 12,000 people signed a petition calling on NBC to apologize. On Saturday morning, NBC did so during NBCSN’s coverage.
“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,'” anchor Carolyn Manno said. “We understand the Korean people were insulted by these comments and we apologize.”
An NBC source said that Ramo completed his work, but it is unlikely that NBC intended for him to only appear the first two days of coverage. NBC’s Olympic coverage has traditionally had analysts appear to discuss the geopolitics and history of the region throughout the duration of the games and Ramo was also a part of NBC’s coverage of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. An NBC spokesperson did not answer whether there was a possibility of Ramo taking part in future games.
“South Korea and POCOG have been exceptional hosts in every way for these Olympics, and we have great admiration and respect for the people here,” an NBC Sports spokesperson said in a statement to TKNN. “We apologized quickly both in writing and on television for a remark made by one of our presenters during Friday night’s Opening Ceremony.”
“We’re very gratified that POCOG has accepted that apology. We look forward to the next two weeks of competition by the athletes, and to showcasing the beauty of Korea, its culture and state-of-the-art technology.”
Ramo did not respond to a request for comment.
Ramo’s commentary was also criticized aside from his remarks on Japan. Variety, for instance, wrote that Ramo’s commentary on Asian culture was “about as deep as a Wikipedia entry.”