NBC apologizes to Koreans and Games for Japan comment

Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics – Opening ceremony – Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium - Pyeongchang, South Korea – February 9, 2018 - South Korea's and Olympic flags flutter during the opening ceremony. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

PYEONGCHANG (Reuters) - U.S. broadcaster NBC apologized to South Korea’s winter Games organizing committee on Sunday after a commentator offended locals during coverage of the opening ceremony by straying into the sensitive issue of Japan-South Korean relations.

Former journalist Joshua Cooper Ramo, working as an analyst for NBC, said on-air during the Pyeongchang Games opening ceremony that all Koreans recognized that Japan had served as an important example in South Korea’s own economic transformation.

Koreans around the world criticized his remarks on social media and a petition soon circulated online. Japan, which colonized the Korean peninsula from 1910 to 1945, has left a deep legacy of mistrust and ill-feeling in South Korea.

Ramo, who has written books on China and is a director of Starbucks Corp and FedEx Corp, said as athletes paraded into the Games stadium that “every Korean will tell you that Japan is a cultural, technological and economic example that has been so important to their own transformation”.

On Sunday, an NBC spokesman said: “We apologized 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 organizing committee has accepted that apology.”

The organizing committee could not immediately be reached for comment.

Ramo, who was also an on-air contributor for NBC during the Beijing Olympics, is co-CEO of Kissinger Associates, an advisory firm of former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

NBC, a unit of Comcast Corp, is the exclusive U.S. broadcaster of the Olympics and is producing more than 2,400 hours of coverage over 18 days from Pyeongchang.

Editing by Mark Bendeich