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Broadcaster NBC apologises over Japan-Korea Olympics gaffe

US broadcaster NBC has apologised after offending Koreans by seemingly downplaying Japan’s colonial occupation of the peninsula.

Former journalist Joshua Cooper Ramo suggested Japan’s occupation of the peninsula from 1910 to 1945 had a positive legacy, as the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games took place in Pyeongchang.

During the Parade of Nations, Mr Ramo said it was notable that Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe made the trip to the games.

Mr Ramo described Japan as “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”.

Joshua Cooper Ramo
Joshua Cooper Ramo made a controversial remark

Japan’s occupation of Korea remains a contested subject in the relationship between the two nations.

In particular, the issue of “comfort women” – women pressed into sexual slavery by Japan’s army – remains a highly-charged topic in the country, where victims feel the Japanese government has never sincerely made amends.

On Sunday, an NBC spokesman said: “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.”

Shinzo Abe
Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe went to the Winter Games

In December, Mr Abe apologised for the “incurable physical and psychological wounds” suffered by the euphemistically termed “comfort women”, who were taken from Korea to work in military-run brothels, and pledged more than £5.37m to help the victims.

At the time of Mr Abe’s apology, South Korean president Park Geun-hye said: “Most of victims are at an advanced age and nine died this year alone. I hope the mental pains of the elderly comfort women will be eased.”

The initial reaction of former sex slaves was mixed. One woman said she would follow the government’s lead, while another vowed to ignore the accord because Tokyo didn’t consider the money to be formal compensation.

“Isn’t it natural to make legal compensation if they commit a crime?” 88-year-old Lee Yong-su told South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.

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