NBC Apologizes After Japan Comment Draws Anger in South Korea


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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan at a women’s hockey game between Japan and Sweden at the 2018 Olympics.

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Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea — The American network NBC has apologized after one of its analysts drew anger for a comment during coverage of the Pyeongchang Olympics that seemed to gloss over South Korea’s painful history with Japan, its former colonial master.

The analyst, Joshua Cooper Ramo, made the comment while appearing with Katie Couric and Mike Tirico during the opening ceremony on Friday. Noting that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan was in attendance, Mr. Ramo described Japan as “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 remark immediately ignited outrage in South Korea, the Olympic host nation, where resentment of Japan’s harsh early 20th-century annexation of the Korean Peninsula continues to simmer. Just last month, Mr. Abe’s attendance at the Games was in question after tensions escalated over Japan’s refusal to reissue an apology for the Japanese military’s role in forcing Korean and other women to work in military brothels during World War II.

Soon after Mr. Ramo’s remark, an online petition began to circulate demanding an apology from NBC. By Sunday, more than 8,000 people had signed it.

“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,” the petition read. “And no, no South Korean would attribute the rapid growth and transformation of its economy, technology, and political/cultural development to the Japanese imperialism.”

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