Why is David Choe facing allegations? Beef controversy explained

David Choe as Isaac Cho in BeefNetflix

Beef star David Choe has been at the center of a sexual assault controversy in recent weeks – here’s everything you need to know about the situation. 

When Beef dropped on Netflix in early April, it went on to become a breakout hit, earning a 98% Rotten Tomatoes score and quickly hitting the streamer’s Top 10 TV show chart where it remains today.

But shortly after the dramedy premiered, one of the cast members, David Choe – who plays lead character Danny’s (Steven Yeun) older cousin – has come under scrutiny with allegations of sexual assault. 

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There’s a lot to this story, which dates back to a podcast from 2014 and continues to unfold with responses from his co-stars. So, here’s the Beef controversy involving David Choe, explained. 

Warning: Some readers may find this content upsetting.

What is the Beef controversy involving David Choe about?

The Beef controversy relates to a 2014 episode of David Choe’s now-canceled podcast DVDASA in which he detailed a graphic story where he admitted to “rapey behavior” after sexually assaulting a female masseuse.

Following the release of Beef, a clip of the episode started circulating on social media, showing the moment he told his former co-host Asa Akira about the incident. He described being turned on while getting the massage, saying it was because of “the thrill of possibly going to jail.”

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When Akira interjected, “You’re basically telling us that you’re a rapist now,” the group went into a discussion about the masseuse’s appearance, with Choe saying she was bi-racial. Soon after, he called himself “a successful rapist.”

David Choe as Isaac Cho in BeefNetflix

Elsewhere in the podcast, he graphically described touching the woman without her consent before forcing her to perform oral sex on him. “I’m getting turned on just telling this story,” he said in the footage. “I just take her hand and I put it on my d*ck. She just holds it there.”

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Choe and Beef’s cast and crew have been slammed by the online community since the clip resurfaced, with many questioning why the producers allowed the artist to appear on the show.

In one of many videos made about the situation, Twitter user and TikToker Daised and Confused asked: “Why the f*ck did the showrunner of the show platform and support a confessed rapist?” Another said: “Watched Beef before hearing this, and wish this was out before binging and enjoying the series.”

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Others have highlighted Choe’s friend and the main star of Beef, Steven Yeun, as well as the fact that the survivor in the story is a black woman. “It’s the lack of solidarity for me,” wrote a third Twitter user. “David Choe admits to assaulting a Black woman and Steven Yeun (who is highly adored by the Black community) is actively protecting him. It’s disgusting really.”

What has David Choe said about the controversy?

Just as concerning for many has been Choe’s reaction to the controversy, which started back in 2014 when the podcast first came out.

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At the time, Choe wrote on the now-defunct DVDASA website (as shared by Buzzfeed News): “I never thought I’d wake up one late afternoon and hear myself called a rapist. It sucks. Especially because I am not one. I am not a rapist. I hate rapists.”

He added: “I am an artist and a storyteller and I view my show DVDASA as a complete extension of my art. If I am guilty of anything, it’s bad storytelling in the style of douche. Just like many of my paintings are often misinterpreted, the same goes with my show. 

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“The main objective of all of my podcasts is to challenge and provoke my friends and the co-stars on the show. We f*ck with each other, entertain ourselves and laugh at each other. It’s a dark, tasteless, completely irreverent show where we f*ck with everyone listening, but mostly ourselves.

“We create stories and tell tales. It’s not a news show. It’s not a representation of my reality. It’s not the place to come for reliable information about me or my life. It’s my version of reality, it’s art that sometimes offends people. I’m sorry if anyone believed that the stories were fact. They were not!”

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In June 2017, shortly before the #MeToo movement started, Choe shared another apology on his Instagram account, writing, “I have zero history of sexual assault. I am deeply sorry for any hurt I’ve brought to anyone through my past words,” before saying he’d spent three years in mental health facilities to deal with his issues. 

Now that the footage has resurfaced following the release of Beef, Choe has yet to personally comment on the situation. But some social media users who initially shared the clip have accused him of asking Twitter to get it removed. 

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Journalist Aura Bogado shared a screenshot of what appeared to be an email from Twitter, writing: “David Choe wrote to Twitter to get the video I posted of him talking about the woman he says he raped taken down on copyright grounds. He claims his *nonprofit* owns the copyright to the video of him talking about the alleged rape.”

How has the Beef cast and crew responded to the David Choe controversy?

On Friday, April 21, Beef creator Lee Sung Jin and executive producers and stars Steven Yeun and Ali Wong released a shared statement to Variety about the David Choe controversy. 

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It reads: “The story David Choe fabricated nine years ago is undeniably hurtful and extremely disturbing. We do not condone this story in any way, and we understand why this has been so upsetting and triggering. 

“We’re aware David has apologized in the past for making up this horrific story, and we’ve seen him put in the work to get the mental health support he needed over the last decade to better himself and learn from his mistakes.”

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But many people believe the apologies are disingenuous, with one responding to the shared statement on Twitter: “He didn’t make a throw away joke. He told a long, detailed and sadistic story about raping a masseuse. I don’t believe it was a fabrication.”

“So they’re just going to brazen it out, and continue working with a rapist,” said another, while a third asked: “But how do we know the story was false when he went so far as to describe the woman?”

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A fourth penned: “I am so damn tired of apologies after consequences instead of taking responsibility because they knew they did wrong. Even if I bought this, which I don’t, it’s tainted because it’s only being said to attempt to clean up his mess.”

Meanwhile, author Marie Myung-Ok Lee described the damage the incident is having on the AAPI community. “Ya know the principals involved w #BEEF @netflix aren’t doing the #aapi community any favors right now by trying to hide/mute what David Choe did instead of investigating and holding him accountable – and themselves if they knew,” she wrote

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“Capitalist success at all costs isn’t a good look for AAPI heritage month,” she added, before describing the show as “a little unremittingly dark for me.”

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