NBC Fires Winter Olympics Commentator over Pyeongchang Opening Ceremony Remarks

NBC fired Winter Olympics commentator Joshua Cooper Ramo after Ramo offended Pyeongchang locals during the Opening Ceremony by straying into the sensitive issue of Japan-South Korean relations.

"Joshua Cooper Ramo has completed his responsibilities for NBC in Pyeongchang, and will have no further role on our air," an NBC spokesman said in an email to Reuters.

Ramo, who worked as an analyst for NBC, said on air that all Koreans recognized that Japan, which brutally occupied Korea from 1910-1945, had served as an important example in South Korea's own economic transformation. Koreans criticized his remarks and a petition circulated online for action against him.

Ramo's comments came as he noted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in attendance at the Pyeongchang Games.

He described Japan as a "country which occupied Korea from 1910 to 1945" and added: "But every Korean will tell you that Japan is a cultural, technological and economic example that has been so important to their own transformation."

NBC, the exclusive US broadcaster of the Olympic Games, initially apologized for Ramo's remarks, and later said he would not be appearing in further Olympics coverage.

"We understand the Korean people were insulted by these comments," one of the anchors said during Saturday's broadcast. According to The Washington Post, the network issued a second apology in writing, and said, "We're very gratified that (the PyeongChang Olympics) has accepted that apology."

South Koreans called the comments ignorant and hurtful.

The petition calling for an apology from NBC drew more than 13,000 signatures.

Many South Koreans have used social media to express their anger, including posting heated comments on NBC's pages.

"You owe a formal apology to the Korean nation for diminishing and ridiculing our painful history during the years of Japanese colonization," said one commenter on NBC's Instagram page.

"Many of our grandfathers and grandmothers were killed by [Japan] and young girls forced to be comfort women. NBC should not say that," another added, referencing the controversial use of South Korea women, many of them forced, in Japanese military brothels.

"Your comments were hurtful and ignorant. Put in some effort to study the country hosting the Olympics," one Instagram user said.

Ramo is vice chairman and co-CEO of the Kissinger Associates consulting firm and has written extensively on Asian economics and politics. 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, for which he won an Emmy award.

Japan has issued several apologies for its occupation of the Korean peninsula, which saw Koreans forced to fight on the frontline, to work as slaves or in brothels.

But the occupation, particularly the issue of forced sex slavery, remain deeply sensitive for many in South Korea.