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Photographer unknown. Scanned by Abasaa. Public domain.

Japanese troops leaving Korea in 1945, under admiring gazes of local residents.

NBC just fired Joshua Cooper Ramo, whom they’d hired to do analysis for the Olympics.

These winter Olympics are being held in South Korea. During the opening ceremonies, Ramo commented that from 1910 to 1945, Korea was occupied by Japan, “but every Korean will tell you that Japan is a cultural, technological and economic example that has been so important to their own transformation,” he added.

What? NO. Not according to this petition signed by thousands of South Koreans, which reads in part, “Any reasonable person familiar with the history of Japanese imperialism, and the atrocities it committed before and during World War II, would find such statement deeply hurtful and outrageous…. And… no South Korean would attribute the rapid growth and transformation of its economy, technology, and political/cultural development to the Japanese imperialism.”

NBC apologized. A different newsperson read a statement saying, “During our coverage of the Parade of Nations… we said it was notable that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made the trip to Korea for the Olympics, ‘representing Japan, 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.’ We understand the Korean people were insulted by these comments and we apologize.”

Good that they specified what they were apologizing for, but after that? Not so good. Ramo should have been the one to apologize. The apology should have said WHY the comment was deemed insulting (Hint: ‘They admire and imitate the country that attacked and occupied them’ doesn’t usually go over well.) The passive construction of “we understand [they]… were insulted” is also bad. How about “that was insulting”?

Photo: Joi. https://www.flickr.com/photos/joi/1424265776/sizes/o/in/photostream/ Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.


No one is even saying “comfort women,” an ongoing issue between South Korea and Japan.

By the next day, NBC could see this wasn’t working. They fired Ramo.

Why’d they hire Ramo in the first place? Well, NBC’s coverage of the 2008 Olympic opening ceremonies got a Peabody Award and an Emmy for work by Ramo, Bob Costas, and Matt Lauer. That was in China – Ramo speaks Mandarin. He’s written a lot about China …but not about Korea.

Perhaps he told NBC that he was a skilled utterer of what Maureen Ryan of Variety called “endless generalities about what constituted ‘Asian’ culture.” Ryan cruelly said these generalities “felt about as deep as a Wikipedia entry,” but SorryWatch thinks that’s not fair to Wikipedia.

On a less insulting but also stupid note, Katie Couric babbled about the Dutch. Commenting on how well the Netherlandish athletes were doing in speed skating events, she burbled, “’Why are they so good?’ you may be asking… Because skating is an important mode of transportation in a city like Amsterdam which sits at sea level. As you all know, it has lots of canals that can freeze in the winters. So… the Dutch… [skate] on them to get from place to place, to race on them, and also to have fun.”

Photo: Vincent van Zeijst. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Rush hour begins.

Twitter had fun with that. Some expanded on the theme of Dutch commutes. “In summer us Dutch swim to work and grocery stores via the canals,” alleged Jos Duijvestein. Bernard suggested that they are aided in this by floating wooden shoes.

Others bragged about their own special national commutes. “We in Australia all use the Uber Kangaroo service to get from A to B,” alleged Sash Dordevic. “Yes and here in Canada we take the dog sled from our igloo home to our igloo office.”

But others took a darker view about Americans being “less bright about the rest of the world.” We wish we could deny it.

We were hoping Couric would apologize to the Dutch for her foolish imaginings, to viewers for telling them stuff that was wrong, and to Americans for making us LOOK LIKE CLUELESS DOPES.

Photo: Dano. https://www.flickr.com/photos/mukluk/287326530/ Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Katie, this means YOU.

She tweeted congratulations to the Netherlands on their medal count, adding “My apologies for being on thin ice for my comments re: skating on canals. I was trying to salute your historical passion for the sport but it didn’t come out that way!”

Not great. If you mess up on air, you should apologize on air. She doesn’t exactly take responsibility for spreading nonsense with “it didn’t come out that way!” THIS IS HER JOB.

Couric has some unexamined childish vision of the Netherlands – Twitter was snide about her probable tulip-riddled windmill imagery. We wonder if she holds to the old belief in canals on Mars. Super cold there, so Martians could commute by skating. Will we see Martians at the next Winter Olympics?


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