Its photos for South Korea showed famous buildings and statues and K-pop group BTS. A piece of salmon was shown for Norway, and pizza — topped with what looked like pepperoni, Canadian bacon and olives — was displayed for Italy.
Other countries’ images were less savory. Ukraine was represented by Chernobyl, the 1986 nuclear disaster, and Haiti’s image showed demonstrators in front of a burning street following the recent assassination of the country’s president.
Romania was portrayed by a photo of Count Dracula, and next to the footage of Mongolia’s delegation was a picture of Genghis Khan.
The photographs were accompanied by descriptions — the Marshall Islands were highlighted as a former U.S. nuclear test site — and statistics about the gross domestic product and coronavirus vaccination rate in each country, according to images that were widely circulated on Twitter after being posted online by Raphael Rashid, a freelance journalist based in Seoul.
The broadcaster apologized in statements posted online over the weekend in Korean, and later in English, writing that “there was a lack of consideration for the countries concerned, and inspection was not thorough enough. It is an inexcusable mistake.” The apology was also displayed prominently Monday on MBC’s homepage.
MBC said it would investigate its process for choosing images and subtitles and “fundamentally reexamine the production system of sports programs to avoid any similar accidents in the future.”
Some Koreans responded on social media to the network’s apology, saying that the images were representative of MBC’s mistake, not Koreans’ worldviews.
“Most Koreans were shocked when they saw this broadcast,” one Facebook user wrote.
But this wasn’t the first time MBC has been criticized for its Olympic coverage. The descriptions it used for the Opening Ceremonies are similar to those used in its coverage of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. The Korea Times reported that year that MBC faced penalties by the Korean Communications Standards Commission over its descriptions of the Cayman Islands as “infamous for tax evasion,” Sudan as “unstable due to prolonged civil war” and Chad as “the dead heart of Africa.”