PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — The period of Japanese colonial rule in Korea, from 1910 until 1945, was characterized by executions, forced labor, systematic rape of so-called “comfort women,” and other human rights atrocities. Japan’s whitewashing of this time period in their history books today is a continued source of tension between the two nations. And yet, for some reason, during the Opening Ceremony in Pyeongchang, South Korea, NBC’s “Asian analyst” Joshua Cooper Ramo had this to say about the Japanese delegation:
Every Korean will tell you that Japan is a cultural, and technological, and economic example, has been so important to their own transformation.
It is fundamentally untrue that every Korean would tell you that, as evidenced by reactions on Twitter, on Korean media, and people here in Pyeongchang! Japan, after all, still pushes back against Korea’s insistence that they be held responsible for the sexual slavery of Korean women, among other things.
NBC responded to the criticism on a broadcast over the weekend. Carolyn Manno (as opposed to Ramo, himself, for whatever reason) read a statement of apology:
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.
NBC isn’t obligated to present a comprehensive overview of the entire Korean history along with their sports broadcasts, but—just like all Olympics—these Games are taking place within the context of a very specific geopolitical history and they are obligated to deal with that sensitively.