- Andreas Rentz/Getty Images for Hubert Burda Media
- An NBC Asia analyst, Joshua Cooper Ramo, made comments during the Winter Olympics opening ceremony that many people viewed as culturally insensitive.
- The network has issued an apology and said in a statement that Ramo “will have no further role on our air.”
An NBC Olympic commentator is no longer on the air after making remarks about Japanese-South Korean relations that some deemed insensitive.
The network has said the Asia analyst Joshua Cooper Ramo is no longer under contract with it after saying during Friday’s opening ceremony in Pyeongchang, South Korea, that “every Korean will tell you that Japan is a cultural, technological, and economic example, has been so important to their own transformation.”
Japan’s occupation of the Korean Peninsula before and during World War II was marked with humanitarian atrocities including forced prostitution of Korean women and forced labor. The Japanese occupation remains a provocative subject for many South Koreans, particularly among the older generation. Disputes over the countries’ history are still a point of contention.
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.”
Though Ramo did acknowledge that Japan “occupied Korea from 1910 to 1945,” South Koreans and foreign-policy experts decried his remarks:
NBC's Olympics Asian Analyst Joshua Cooper Ramo says having the next three Olympics in Korea, Japan and China is an "opportunity to experience all of the Asian cultures." @NBCOlympics, maybe next time hire an Asian Analyst that knows Asia has more than three cultures???
— Harrison W. Inefuku (@hnltraveler) February 10, 2018
Um, no…. how the hell is this guy the Asian correspondent?
"NBC Asian correspondent Joshua Cooper Ramo said that "every Korean" respected Japan ,…insinuating that South Korea had forgotten about the 35 brutal years of Japanese rule https://t.co/972KZHoM4f
— Marie Myung-Ok Lee [이 명옥] (@MarieMyungOkLee) February 13, 2018
Can no longer access @NBCOlympics IG from Korea. Lots of backlash here b/c commentator Joshua Cooper Ramo reportedly said, "Every Korean will tell you that Japan is a cultural and technological and economic example that has been so important to their own transformation." pic.twitter.com/E3wqyt32n8
— Rachel Premack (@rrpre) February 10, 2018
“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 more than 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 Organizing Committee said that it “informed NBC of the errors in their commentary and the sensitivity of the subject in Korea,” according to Reuters.
The NBC Sports anchor Carolyn Manno issued a statement about 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 apologize.”
Ramo left the network after the Olympic opening ceremony. Though media reports suggested he was involuntarily fired, an NBC Sports executive reportedly said that Ramo was contracted only for the opening ceremony and that his employment came to a natural end.