An Olympics commentator has been fired after he made some controversial comments which offended an entire nation.
Joshua Cooper Ramo was commentating on behalf of US broadcaster NBC at this year’s Winter Olympic Games taking place in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
However, during his analysis of the opening ceremony he decided it would be appropriate to make a comment about the sensitive issue of Japanese and South Korean relations, resulting in him being taken off air.
Despite the Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, being in attendance, the former journalist said live on-air, all South Koreans recognised how Japan had served as an important example in their own economic transformation.
Referring to Japan, Ramo commented:
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 offhand remark caused an immediate outrage in South Korea as it seemed to just gloss over the nation’s rather painful history with Japan.
Resentment in the Games’ host country towards Japan is still strong, with Prime Minister Abe’s attendance itself causing tensions.
A majority of people in the country don’t think Japan has apologised sufficiently for their military’s role in forcing Korean and other women to work in brothels during World War II.
Ramo’s insensitive comment sparked a storm of complaints on social media as well as a petition calling for NBC to apologise.
Thousands of Koreans took to Twitter to voice their outrage:
IOC bans any demonstration of political or racial propaganda in the Games.
NBC commentator's praising Japan's colonization of Korea
it's the same as advocating Nazi persecution of the Jews?
Shame on you NBC!@NBCOlympics @Olympics @iocmedia
— 나달?#이다야언니 (@kihsCharlotte) February 10, 2018
nbc olympics. Very disappointed with the NBC commentator Joshua Cooper Ramo during Olympic opening ceremony. How can he make such a historically and culturally insensitive comment? "Every Korean” sure thanks Japan for colonizing the country??? How insulting!
— hixtape (@MarkLederDNFT) February 10, 2018
Joshua Cooper Ramo, the idiot @NBC hired to provide "commentary" on the Olympics, is a partner (CEO) with, and a protege of, Henry Kissinger, America's most notorious war criminal. Who the hell thought this was a good idea? https://t.co/wuRaOQp1Cw https://t.co/9EzLgzWRhT
— Tim Shorrock (@TimothyS) February 10, 2018
Hey @NBCOlympics, what on earth you ended up hiring this incompetent person Joshua Cooper Ramo for the opening ceremony? Hope no one would hear his nonsenses during Olympic Games. Wait, he should be fired by now. Have you?
— StellaM (@stobang) February 10, 2018
An online petition began circulating on Sunday night, receiving more than 14,000 signatures at the time of writing.
Demanding the network apologise for Ramo’s comments, it reads:
Any reasonable person familiar with the history of Japanese imperialism, and the atrocities it committed before and during WWII, would find such statement deeply hurftul 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.
It is NOT the intention of the petitioners to tarnish the spirit of peace and hope of the Winter Olympics nor to disrespect the individual atheletes of Team Japan.
Quite the contrary, we believe that staying silent is not an appropriate response to such ignorant, insensitive, and harmful information that defies the very spirit of peace, harmony, honor, and human dignity at the Olympics.
We demand NBC to release a public apology to the Korean people and the viewers of the Winter Olympics who deserve to be informed on the truthful account of history.
As well as apologising to South Korea’s Winter Games organising committee on Sunday, the network responded by firing Ramo.
As reported by The New York Times, their statement read:
Joshua Cooper Ramo has completed his responsibilities for NBC in Pyeongchang, and will have no further role on our air.
We apologised quickly both in writing and on television for a remark made by one of our presenters during Friday night’s opening ceremony.
We’re very gratified that Pyeongchang’s organising committee has accepted that apology.
Ramo himself has not yes responded to the complaints.
Emily Murray is a journalist at UNILAD. She graduated from the University of Leeds with a BA in English Literature and History before studying for a Masters in Journalism at the University of Salford. Emily has previously worked for the BBC, ITV and Trinity Mirror. When Emily isn’t writing about topics including mental health and entertainment, you can find her at the cinema which is her second home.