Beyond the Horse Dance: Viral Vid “Gangnam Style”
Critiques Korea’s Extreme Inequality
A Korean rapper and singer-songwriter Park Jeasang – known as PSY, short for “Psycho” – has taken the Internet by storm with the wacky video for his song “Gangnam Style (강남스타일)”. The irresistibly absurd “horse-riding dance” featured in the video has everyone from Britney Spears to David Gregory trying it out for themselves; even Scooter Braun – the man who discovered Justin Bieber – wants a piece of the viral action and has signed the K-Pop star to his Schoolboy Records label. PSY has made the catchy song and accompanying cheesy choreography.
Though he was a quite controversial artist, his unique style – often satirical – was appreciated by sophisticated listeners in Korea. There is a “subversive message” behind the song, which is actually a sarcastic take on those who live in the wealthiest Gangnam district of Seoul. “Gangnam Style” is a Korean neologism that refers to the ostentatious lifestyle associated with the neighborhood, where people are trendy, hip and exude a certain supposed “class”. The song criticizes the material-obsessed culture of Gangnam. The video satirizes “Gangnam itself but it is also about how people outside of Gangnam pursue their dream to be one of those Gangnam residents without even realizing what it really means.”
In his video, PSY used contrasting images to depict the divide between desire and reality. Lounging on a beach chair, which turns out to be in a dusty playground. And strutting with a bunch of sexy ladies while trash and other debris fly around and stick to their faces. Then, there is that close-up shot of PSY looking super cool, until the camera pans out to show him sitting in a toilet bowl, his pants around his ankles.
PSY also pokes fun at the new status symbols when he mentions coffee. In Korea, as in many parts of the world, branded coffee is often expensive. When PSY says he is a guy who “one-shots his coffee before it cools down,” it means he has to drink every last drop of the brew because it costs too much.
The most telling part of the song is when PSY sings “Sexy lady, Oppa is Gangnam Style”. “Oppa” means “older brother” in Korean, but it is also a term that refers to one’s boyfriend or someone a woman relies on. When PSY raps “Oppa is Gangnam Style” while acting cheesy, it means he has a “Gangnam Style” facade, which may not be what he really is.”Gangnam Style” is hilarious, but if you look deeper, what PSY is saying is not funny at all.
This is a post by David Report contributor Jaeuk Jung.