NETWORK OF ENTERTAINING ASIAN AMERICAN TALENT
Magazine honors actor John Cho and former ‘People’ editor Jeannie Park
LOS ANGELES — Margaret Cho hosted KoreAm Journal’s seventh annual gala, “Unforgettable,” honoring actor John Cho, film producer Roy Lee and former executive editor of People magazine Jeannie Park on Nov. 21.
Following dinner, Margaret Cho, who was honored with an award last year, performed songs she wrote about Kim Jong-il and also Prop 8, the recently passed bill that bans gay marriage. Cho, who has stated that it has taken a long time for the Korean community to accept her, drew attention to the lack of recognition of gays in the community.“I’m not sure how Koreans are about the gay thing,” Cho said during her act. “My mom’s like ‘Oh, they don’t have a gay in Korea.’ But there are gays in Korea and there are Korean Americans here and I’m one.”
The song about Prop 8, originally written for an equal marriage rally in Cincinnati, received vocal but scattered cheers from the largely Korean American audience. Yet when Cho performed her next tune, a “rock song” about Kim Jong-il, the high-ceilinged ballroom boomed with laughter.
Actor Sung Kang said that the comedienne “added the right type of awkward humor” to the evening,” seeing that the supporters of the Yes on 8 campaign were heavy advertisers in Korean news outlets.
“Being such a heavily Korean American event, I was wondering how many people are really opposed to Prop 8 or for Prop 8,” Kang said.
The sold-out black tie event, held at the Park Plaza Hotel, has grown considerably in the last seven years. James Ryu, editor-in-chief of the publication, said it started as an event for Korean Americans to gather and “recognize, promote and help one another.”
Jeannie Park, who was also the founding president of the New York chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association, seconded that mission in her acceptance speech, noting “how critical it is that we support each other.”
She also modestly quipped, “I’m still a little stunned receiving this award, since I think the most significant thing I did for the Korean American community is making sure [Survivor] Yul Kwon got on [People’s] Sexiest Men Alive list.”
But Ryu sees great value in these contributions. “It’s about people like Jeannie Park making a difference, helping these young Korean Americans to continue to promote themselves and put them in the public eye.”
Up-and-coming actors Justin Chon, Leonardo Nam and Aaron Yoo presented John Cho with his award and thanked him for paving the way. John Cho, in turn, recognized Margaret Cho for being a pioneer and said he was “excited to be witnessing the rapid growth in our artistic community, both Korean and American.”
Though it was a star-studded evening, attendees recognized that the publication does more than just promote Korean Americans in the arts.
“It’s important the role KoreAm represents in our community when we think about it,” Kang said. “Once a year, we get a chance to get together and celebrate our accomplishments and support one another. It’s so lonely sometimes in this town or in our journey, whether you’re in the media, law, politics or a housewife.”
“That’s what I really appreciate about KoreAm,” he continued. “It doesn’t just encompass one thing — they’re actually celebrating being a successful Korean American citizen.”