If you’ve been watching the Olympics in the United States, you probably did so on NBC. You might be disappointed to learn that you have not been receiving a good representation of South Korea or of the Olympics. Here are a few examples of that.
Things started on a bad note when an NBC announcer and supposed Asia expert Joshua Cooper Ramo whitewashed Japan’s violent, colonial history in Korea. He said, “Every Korean will tell you that Japan is a cultural and technological and economic example that has been so important to their own transformation.” NBC eventually apologized, and Ramo was fired.
NBC’s airing of the Opening Ceremony was also edited and butchered from its original form. Although NBC aired a ½ hour of promotions before the event itself, the company still decided to cut 23 minutes of footage! The included speeches, flag processions, and Olympic history. But:
One part NBC didn’t skimp on? The introduction of the U.S. delegation, which in real life took 62 seconds but which appeared on American television to take more than seven minutes. (They looped parts, which is why you heard the same portion of Psy’s “Gangnam Style” over and over again.)
Perhaps most pervasively, NBC pronounces the name of Pyeongchang incorrectly. Korean is a phonetic language, and there is only one way to say the word:
“Pyeong-ch-ah-ng,” like when a doctor tells you to open your mouth and say “ah.” It is not “Pyeong-ch-ay-ng,” like fang.
Despite being urged by the Asian American Journalists Association to use the correct pronunciation, NBC decided against doing so. They said that their wrong pronunciation sounded “cleaner.”
To be very clear, I am not watching the Olympics. However, I think it is an important window into other countries’ cultures for many people. NBC has repeatedly shown its failure to uphold that responsibility.
UPDATE: NBC is ignoring sexual assault allegations against snowboarder Shaun White.