NBC analyst Joshua Cooper Ramo came under fire for a comment made during his coverage of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony, forcing the network to issue a public apology.
Ramo remarked that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was in attendance, then went on to say Japan was “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.”
The outrage in South Korea, the host country of the winter Olympic games, was almost instantaneous. Koreans took to Twitter to remind Ramo of Japan’s brutal annexation of South Korea at the beginning of the 20th century, as well as the tensions that remain.
Last month, Japan refused to apologize for their military’s role in forcing Korean women to work in military brothels during World War II, causing many to question Prime Minister Abe’s scheduled appearance in PyeongChang for the Olympics.
An online petition demanding an apology from NBC and Ramo garnered over 8,000 signatures in less than 48 hours. The petition read “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. And no, no South Korean would attribute the rapid growth and transformation of its economy, technology, and political/cultural development to the Japanese imperialism.”
NBC anchor Carolyn Manno read an apology statement on-air Saturday morning, which said “We understand the Korean people were insulted by these comments and we apologize.” NBC Sports also issued their own statement Sunday, defending their quick apology both in written and spoken form.
Ramo’s comments may have deeper consequences and implications, though. Many Koreans believe that the United States is abandoning its long-time ally of South Korea in favor of strengthening a relationship with Japan. One Korean-language Twitter user pointed out the hypocrisy in the U.S. sidling up to a country that bombed them. Ramo’s remarks are being characterized as reflecting larger U.S. policy goals and beliefs.