Margaret Cho isn’t apologizing for her North Korea bit at this year’s Golden Globes. The comedian had a recurring character named Cho Young-Ja, a humorless North Korean Army general with a stereotypically “Asian” accent who was also a contributor to the fictional to Movies Wow! magazine.
E. Alex Young wrote over at Vulture that the bit was plainly racist, and falls in line with a long line of problematic comedy in Cho’s history:
Margaret Cho’s comedy has always relied on utilizing a brand of Orientalism. For instance, in her HBO comedy special from 1994, she does a sketch where she plays a “sponsored child” for Star magazine. She dons a rice paddy hat and “Asian” accent as she shares her weight-loss secret: contracting malaria. On the face of it, this could be just another instance of yellowface, but Cho introduces the sketch with a story of when her brother sent her a clipping from Starmagazine that featured her on the cover with the headline “Chow Like Cho Diet” and a fake interview. “When I was young, I was raised on rice and fish, so when I get heavy I go back to that natural Asian way of eating,” Cho relays. “That’s so racist you can almost hear the choppers overhead.”
But Cho defending her actions on Twitter:
She also spoke to BuzzFeed and added, “I’m of North and South Korean descent, and I do impressions of my family and my work all the time, and this is just another example of that,” she said. “I am from this culture. I am from this tribe. And so I’m able to comment on it.
I can do whatever I want when it comes to Koreans – North Koreans, South Korean. I’m not playing the race card, I’m playing the rice card. I’m the only person in the world, probably, that can make these jokes and not be placed in a labor camp.”