HISTORY LESSON

NBC’s Olympics analyst is out after he insulted Koreans with a remark on Japan

Complex history.
Complex history.
Image: Reuters/Grigory Dukor
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On Friday (Feb. 9), Joshua Cooper Ramo was on NBC analyzing the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in South Korea. By Monday, after a historical misstep, he was gone from the network.

During the opening ceremony in Pyeongchang, Ramo made the following point about the significance of Japan to South Korea after spotting Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe (paywall) among the opening ceremony guests:

“(Japan was) a country which occupied Korea from 1910 to 1945. But every Korean will tell you that Japan is a cultural and technical and economic example that has been so important to their own transformation.”

The comment quickly elicited outrage from Koreans, who criticized Ramo for being ignorant of and insensitive to the brutal history of Japan’s 35-year-long occupation of Korea, which continues to complicate Japan-Korea relations. In the weeks ahead of the Olympics opening ceremony there had even been speculation that Abe might not attend, given comments in January by South Korea leader Moon Jae-in over the issue of Korean women kept as wartime sex slaves by Japan.

An NBC anchor on Sunday apologized for the remarks: “We understand the Korean people were insulted by these comments and we apologize.” The network also apologized formally to the Pyeongchang Games organizing committee and said that Ramo’s assignment at the Olympics was over.

Ramo is vice chairman and co-CEO of Kissinger Associates, the consulting firm founded by former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, and was a former foreign editor at Time magazine. According to his website, Ramo is based in Beijing and New York and is a Mandarin speaker, and was also brought on by NBC as a commentator during the 2008 Beijing Olympics.