South Korean TV network apologizes for offensive Olympic broadcast

Agence France-Presse
South Korean TV network apologizes for offensive Olympic broadcast
A supporter takes photos as fireworks light up the sky over the Olympic Stadium during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, in Tokyo, on July 23, 2021.
Yuki Iwamura / AFP

SEOUL – A major South Korean broadcaster apologized Saturday for using offensive images and captions to describe participating countries during the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony on Friday night.

Coronavirus restrictions meant a stripped back celebration with the traditional delegations of athletes masked and far smaller than usual, ranging from just a handful of people to a few dozen.

MBC — one of the largest national television networks — used images of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster for Ukraine, a riot for Haiti and a promotional bitcoin poster for El Salvador when each nation entered the stadium.

The broadcaster issued an apology following the opening ceremony, saying "inappropriate images and captions were used to introduce some countries."

"We apologize to those countries including Ukraine and our viewers," it said.

For some countries, the descriptions were more gastronomic, with images of pizza for Italy, sushi for Japan, and salmon for Norway.

In the captions, the network described the Marshall Islands as "a former nuclear test site for the United States" and Haiti as a country "with an unstable political situation due to the assassination of its president".

Despite the network's apology, the images and captions triggered outrage online.

"They used whatever popped up first on Google," said one user online.

Another added: "This is a serious diplomatic discourtesy."

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