NBC has sidelined one of its Olympic analysts for saying that the Japanese occupation of the Korean peninsula was an important moment in South Korea’s economic transformation, drawing swift backlash online.
The analyst, Joshua Cooper Ramo, made the remark during NBC’s prime-time telecast of Friday’s opening ceremony in pointing out the presence of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
“Every Korean will tell you that Japan is a cultural and technical and economic example that has been so important to their own transformation,” Ramo said.
An online petition quickly circulated demanding an apology from NBC. The network apologized formally to the Pyeongchang Olympic organizing committee and anchor Carolyn Manno read a statement on the NBCSN cable channel early Saturday.
“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.”
Petitioners said anyone familiar with Japanese treatment of Koreans from 1910 to 1945 would be deeply hurt by Ramo’s remark. They also criticized the accuracy of giving Japan credit for South Korea’s resurgence.
The petition had racked up more than 10,000 supporters on Sunday.
Ramo, a former journalist at Time magazine, is co-CEO at Kissinger Associates and had been hired temporarily by NBC to bring historical context to its coverage. According to his LinkedIn page, Ramo held a similar role as a “China analyst” during the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
The network said his assignment at the Olympics is now over.
As of Sunday afternoon, Ramo’s biography had been removed from the NBC Sports Pressbox website, which includes pages devoted to all the network’s talent.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.