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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Feb. 14)

2018/02/14 07:00

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Misinformation on Korea

: Koreans angered by foreign media's Olympic coverage

Some incorrect reports on Korea by overseas media outlets have spilled cold water on the Olympic mood.

The most disastrous among such reports was made by U.S. broadcaster NBC during the Feb. 9 opening ceremony of the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games, when one of its commentators glossed over Japan's occupation of Korea.

NBC's Joshua Cooper Ramo noticed Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in attendance and described Japan as a "country which occupied Korea from 1910 to 1945." This part is correct but what followed infuriated Koreans. "Every Korean will tell you that Japan as a cultural and technological and economic example has been so important to their own transformation."

   Many Koreans are still angry, although the network apologized after the PyeongChang organizing committee lodged a complaint and removed Ramo from Olympic assignments.

It is absolutely untrue that "every Korean" has a positive assessment of the Japanese colonial period. Since the former NBC analyst has not met "every Korean," the claim is not only baseless, but shows an obvious lack of knowledge of the historical dispute between Korea and Japan.

Koreans are still overwhelmingly negative about the Japanese occupation, during which some Korean women were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese army. The so-called comfort women remain among the thorniest bilateral issues.

An analyst for a broadcast network does not have to be a history expert, but a quick check on Korea's background would have been enough to prevent such a grave insult against the Olympic host.

NBC also identified PyeongChang as being in North Korea during the opening ceremony in one of its captions.

The U.S. network was not the only one to spread misinformation on Korea during the Olympics. The British daily The Times described Jeju Island as a Japanese territory in the unified banner used by the two Koreas during the opening ceremony.

The paper mistook Jeju, Korea's southern resort island, for Dokdo, our easternmost islets over which Japan claims sovereignty. A caption accompanying a photo of the athletes carrying the unified banner read: "The flag carried by the Korean athletes proved controversial ― not because it represented a union of two implacable foes, but because it appeared to lay claim to an island owned by Japan."

   This completely distorts the purpose of the unified flag, which is to promote friendlier relations among the two Koreas. Since Dokdo was left off the flag to comply with International Olympic Committee (IOC) statutes, it is wrong to claim the flag raised a territorial controversy.

The mishaps by the foreign media underline the overflow of misinformation on Korea in the international community. The government and Korea's overseas missions have some serious work to do to set them straight.