One of the most-talked about moments of the 2015 Golden Globes featured Margaret Cho doing an impression of a Korean journalist named Chu Yung Ja. But not everyone was amused by this bit, which mocked North Korea’s alleged role in the Sony hacking scandal. Now the comedienne has responded to critics who called the jokes racist. And she clearly has no regrets about her performance Sunday night.
Margaret Cho’s Korean journalist appeared twice on the Golden Globes broadcast. First, she appeared in the audience to take a photo with Meryl Streep. As Michael Keaton snapped the photo, hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler noted that Streep was cooperating because she had “a lot of embarrassing emails” that she didn’t want to get leaked.
This, of course, was in reference to North Korea’s government allegedly hacking Sony Pictures’ email accounts before the planned release of The Interview. The comedy film starred Seth Rogen and James Franco as journalists assigned to kill North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.
Cho then returned in character later in the show, when Fey and Poehler asked the Korean journalist for her thoughts on the Golden Globes. But Chu Yung Ja was not impressed.
“In North Korea we know how to put on a show,” Cho responded in accented English. “This is not a show. You no have thousands of babies playing guitars…You no have Dennis Rodman or any basketball at all.”
Watch Margaret Cho play a Korean journalist at the 2015 Golden Globes.
During the 2015 Golden Globes, many critics and Twitter users condemned Margaret Cho’s segments as unfunny (at best) or racist (at worst). But on Monday, Margaret Cho refused to apologize for her bit. She told Buzzfeed that she is of Korean descent and thus should be able to make fun of her native culture.
“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,” Margaret Cho said of her Golden Globes bit. “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.”
Cho added that she shouldn’t be forbidden from playing Asian roles just because of her heritage. “I feel if there’s negativity, it’s other people’s judgments about what they feel that Asian-Americans are allowed to do, really,” she continued. “You’re putting expectations on us that we have to remain Asian-American, that we can’t actually play people from Asia. When we have British people playing American icons, there’s no backlash. But for Asian-Americans, it’s a very particular set of expectations that we are set to maintain, and that in itself is racist.”
Margaret Cho similarly responded to the Golden Globes backlash on her Twitter page.
— Margaret Cho (@margaretcho) January 12, 2015
In fact, this Golden Globes bit was not the first time Margaret Cho mocked North Korea. Back in 2012, she was nominated for an Emmy for her portrayal of the late dictator Kim Jong-Il during an episode of 30 Rock.