“Beef” controversy explained: Costar David Choe’s past claims of “rapey” behavior resurface

A week after its April 6 release, Netflix’s limited series “Beef” continues to dominate the Top 10 List as the No. 1 show on the platform. But the buzz isn’t all good now that all that attention has resurfaced an ugly history for one of its co-stars.

The series follows Amy Lau (Ali Wong) and Danny Cho (Steven Yeun), two strangers who cross paths in a road rage incident that slowly begins to consume their lives as they retaliate agaisnt each other. What follows is pure and utter chaos, which includes catfishing, a kidnapping and far more.

Painter David Choe, who plays Danny’s fun yet felonious cousin Isaac on the show, first became famous for making a fortune by painting murals at Facebook, for which he was paid in Facebook stock. Choe’s own artwork is also featured in the title cards for each episode. IndieWire wrote, “Choe’s work is an excellent match for the series, frenetic and brimming over with messy emotion — whether that emotion is desire, longing, or something uglier.”

In an interview with IndieWire, creator Lee Sung Jin said, “David Choe, who plays Isaac, suggested I use his paintings. He stopped showing his work publicly over a decade ago, so he had hundreds of paintings no one had ever seen. He graciously allowed me to pick the ones I felt fit the episodes the best.” 

Amid Choe’s newfound attention, however, his prior sexual assault allegations have resurfaced, causing many to question his involvement in the show. 

Here’s a closer look at Choe’s infamous comments bragging about “rapey” behavior and the aftermath of it all:

March 2014: Choe brags about a disturbing sexual encounter

In a March 10 episode of “DVDASA,” a podcast Choe co-hosted with porn actor Asa Akira, Choe recounted getting a massage from a masseuse he calls “Rose.” He said he got an erection during his massage and began masturbating, despite Rose being visibly uncomfortable:

It’s dangerous and it’s super self-destructive. I’m at a place and there’s potential for a lawsuit . . . and she has given me no signs that she’s into me or that this is appropriate behavior. In my head I go, Do you care if I jerk off right now? and it sounds so creepy in my head that I go, I can’t say that out loud . . . So I go back to the chill method of you never ask first, you just do it, get in trouble and then pay the price later.

. . . So I just start jerking off. So then her hands get off my leg and she just stops . . .  I go “Look I’m sorry I can’t help myself — can you just pretend like I’m not doing this and you continue with the massage?'”And she’s like “All right” and she does . . .  I’m like “Can I touch your butt?” and I reach out and touch her butt and she pulls away. She doesn’t want me to touch her butt.

Choe then asked Rose for oil. When she poured it on him, he said he grabbed her hand and placed it on his penis. He asked her to spit on and kiss it, and she said no — twice.

She’s definitely not into it, but she’s not stopping it either. I say, “Kiss it a little,” she says, “No, all the massage oil is on it,” and I take the back of her head and I push it down on my dick and she doesn’t do it. And I say, “Open your mouth, open your mouth,'” and she does it and I start facef**king her.

Choe said he continued until he finished in Rose’s mouth. Rose refused to have sex with him and asked him to lie back down so she could finish the massage. 

In response to Choe’s story, Akira said, “You raped . . . allegedly,” to which he replied, “Well . . . encouraged.” 

“I just want to make it clear that I admit that that’s rapey behavior,” Choe continued. “But I am not a rapist. With the rape stuff. . . I mean, I would have been in a lot of trouble right now if I put her hand on my d**k and she’s like, ‘F**king stop I’m gonna go call security.’ That would have been a much different story. But the thrill of possibly going to jail, that’s what achieved the erection quest.”

A shocked Akira then said, “You’re basically telling us that you’re a rapist right now, and the only way to get your d**k hard is rape.” Choe responded with a simple “Yeah,” before describing Rose’s appearance. 

“Who cares what she looks like, Dave is telling us he’s a rapist,” Akira exclaimed. Choe then clarified, “a successful rapist.”

April 2014: Choe claims his story was not “fact”

A little over a month after the episode aired, Choe addressed the allegations in a statement posted on the show’s now-defunct website. Choe reiterated that he’s not a rapist and asserted that his prior claims were not “fact.” Instead, they were the product of “misinterpretation” and “bad storytelling in the style of douche.” Choe wrote:  

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, I think rapists should be raped and murdered.

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

In a world full of horrible people, thank god for us.

Following Choe’s comments, Vice said they “were looking into it” when asked by Buzzfeed if they would continue working with Choe in the future.

June 2017: Choe’s controversial Bowery Mural is targeted in protests 

On June 12, nationwide and international graffiti gang Big Time Mafia sprayed their signature letters “BTM” on the mural Choe had painted on Bowery Mural, an expansive outdoor wall located in Manhattan’s Lower East Side neighborhood.

Per Hyperallergic, it’s unclear whether BTM’s display was “an expression of solidarity with those protesting against what they as a normalization of rape culture . . .” The outlet also noted, “The massive, black letters may be unrelated, standing as an expression of general resentment toward Choe. (The Bowery wall has long been a popular target for vandals and graffiti writers.)”

Several other BTM members returned to Bowery Mural to splash more paint on Choe’s mural.

On June 18, Choe’s mural was the site of an anti-rape protest and performance art piece titled “NO MEANS NO.” A Facebook invite to the event read, “This piece is intended to examine examples of violent and predatory misogyny. Our aim is to provoke widespread rejection of the continued normalization of rape culture by bringing visibility to the topic.”

June 17, 2017: Choe issues a formal apology 

In a lengthy Instagram caption, Choe apologized for his comments and maintained that even though he spoke about rape, he did not commit it: 

How does one apologize for a lifetime of doing wrong? Through my past three years of recovery and rehabilitation, I’ve attempted to answer that question through action and understanding. In my life I’ve struggled deeply with an unnatural amount of hatred I’ve had towards myself. Most of my life I’ve been a scared hurt shame filled person, trying to mask my insecurities with false confidence and an outwardly negative behavior to validate myself as worthy. 

In a 2014 episode of [“DVDASA,”] I relayed a story simply for shock value that made it seem as if I had sexually violated a woman. Though I said those words, I did not commit those actions. It did not happen. I have ZERO history of sexual assault. I am deeply sorry for any hurt I’ve brought to anyone through my past words. Non-consensual sex is rape and it is never funny or appropriate to joke about. I was a sick person at the height of my mental illness, and have spent the last 3 years in mental health facilities healing myself and dedicating my life to helping and healing others through love and action. I do not believe in the things I have said although I take full ownership of saying them. 

Additionally, I do not condemn anyone or have any ill will towards those who spread hate and speak out negatively against me, no one will ever hate me more than I hated myself back then. Today I’ve learned to love and forgive others just as much as myself. It’s been a rough journey but i am grateful to be alive and to dedicate myself to shining the light I have found within myself and live in service and gratitude. I am truly sorry for the negative words and dark messages I had put out into the world.”

June 2021: Choe’s TV spotlight

In 2021, Choe debuted his FX series “The Choe Show,” in which he’d interview guests – including his former “DVDASA” co-host – and then reveal a portrait he painted of the person at the end. The series acted as an extension of the therapy he’d undergone, and in the years since, he’s continued to appear onscreen, whether it’s with Anthony Bourdain or a bit part in “The Mandalorian” to his supporting role in “Beef.” 

In a New York Times interview at the time “Choe Show” premiered, he told reporter Edmund Lee,  reflecting on the “DVDASA” fallout. 

“At that time in my life, I was done with life and chasing a bottom. I wanted out. . . . I never raped anyone,” he said, later adding, “It was strangely comforting to be so despised. It matched how I felt about myself for the first time.”

The article also detailed his struggles with addiction and self-loathing and how he had been sexually abused as a child when he had been sent back to South Korea when his parents couldn’t afford to raise him. 

About the public’s opinion he said, “I just assume any time I do anything, the haters come out. If you want to come and try to cancel me, that’s OK.”


Recently, a clip of Choe’s infamous podcast episode was recently shared on Twitter by writer Aura Bogado. In a quote tweet, Chicago Tribune TV and film critic Nina Metz wrote, “This is extremely gross and upsetting and dispiriting. He currently co-stars in the extraordinary ‘Beef’ and it is notable that telling this story years ago didn’t cut him off from the kind of connections that enabled him to be part of the show.”

Similarly, Los Angeles-based food, drinks and culture writer Esther Tseng tweeted, “I . . . just can’t believe they hadn’t thought this would resurface the whole time i was watching. . .”

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