Durham County

Durham-born Olympics commentator roasted for insensitivity to Korea-Japan relations

People gather around the Olympic rings as an art installation burns in the background at the Fire Art Festival during the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018. The Gangneung coastal cluster is hosting the ice sports, including ice hockey, figure skating, speed skating, short track and curling.
People gather around the Olympic rings as an art installation burns in the background at the Fire Art Festival during the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018. The Gangneung coastal cluster is hosting the ice sports, including ice hockey, figure skating, speed skating, short track and curling. AP

An on-air blunder during NBC's Friday, Feb. 9 broadcast of the 2018 Winter Olympics stirred international indignation and prompted the network to apologize for remarks made by one of its commentators, Joshua Cooper Ramo.

Ramo will not appear on any further Olympic coverage, NBC said.

A personal website says Ramo was raised in Los Ranchos, New Mexico, but he’s originally from Durham.

According to “About the Author” descriptions of Ramo, the writer and commentator was born in Durham on Dec. 14, 1968.

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Joshua Cooper Ramo.

The Bull City-born Ramo claimed to speak on behalf of all Koreans when citing Japan as providing the example that led to Korea’s own modernization.

“Every Korean will tell you that Japan is a cultural and technical and economic example that has been so important to their own transformation,” he said during the opening ceremonies, with a nod to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was on hand for the opening event Friday.

A petition demanding an apology quickly began circulating online.

The petition said, “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.

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

Japan occupied the Korean peninsula, now home to North and South Korea, from 1910 to 1945, a particularly brutal occupation for which Koreans harbor extreme resentment.

The petition and other complaints prompted NBC to apologize during its Olympics coverage on cable platform NBCSN on Saturday.

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South Korean Olympic figure skating champion Yuna Kim, right, takes the torch from North Korea's Jong Su Hyon, left, and South Korea's Park Jong-ah during the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Friday, Feb. 9, 2018. David J. Phillip, Pool AP Photo

Colin Warren-Hicks: 919-419-6636, @CWarrenHicks

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