1: Who is Psy (real name: Park Jae-Sang): bad boy v. court jester?
He is a Korean-version bad boy and court jester packaged into one person. Psy’s biggest hit before ‘Gangnam Style’ was ‘Champion,” which was a hit due to remarkable timing with Korea’s hosting of the 2002 FIFA World Cup, in which Korea was viewed as a soccer/football ‘champion’ in the form of a quarterfinal team.
2. Is he an unusual K-Pop star?
His is an unlikely figure for singing stardom due to his age (mid-30s) and looks (typifying the average person rather than a meticulously prefabricated singer beauty). No one could have expected “Gangnam Style” – originally geared for local audiences – to be a global sensation. Psy is the anti-beauty, anti-model, anti-authority singer – ironically, this could his the recipe for success. Psy’s unique combination of these qualities have been fairly constant for the past decade. But what has changed is what the world, inside and outside Korea want, in a youtube era – authenticity, reality, and buzzworthiness – all of which Psy fortunately had at the right time, and the right place (youtube, with about 60 million hits for the song, twitter and other social media).
3. What is Gangnam Style?
Gangnam style as the current pop hit song is a fun, lovable, and catchy song that features outlandish entertainment in the form of mesmerizing supertechno beats and rhythms combined with outrageous “horse dance” moves, with fast cars and attractive women as backdrops. At the less visible level, it is a “satire with synthesizers” placing all the perceived virtues of “Gangnam” (an affluent region of Seoul) under a critical light, essentially mocking the superficial, consumer-driven, style over substance Gangnam area culture.
4. What does Gangnam represent socially and historically?
“Gangnam” literally means “south of the Han River.” Today, the Gangnam area is viewed as an upper-class region, home to famous celebrities, top Korean firm headquarters, and pricey shopping and apartments. For these reasons, the Gangnam area typifies the consumerism of modern day Confucian Korea. The area is an $82 billion economic region, which is also home to the country’s most prestigious university (in which an estimated 41% of its student body are from Gangnam), the alma mater of a disproportionately large amount of Korea’s top power players in business and government. Gangbuk, north of the Han River, is the traditional area of Seoul, which is viewed as a less economically elite region. Gangnam, in short, is geographic symbol of current day conspicuous consumption in a time when Korea’s education, income, social status are increasingly bifurcated between the “haves” and “have nots.”
5. How can Psy’s hit be monetized?
South Korea’s government has been supporting Korean entertainment overseas as a form of “soft power” diplomacy – similar to the soft power of Hollywood – which has had some success, but mostly within Asia. Psy’s success has been a surprise. If you believe that a Korean hit pop song in the US market is not a “one hit wonder,” then buying shares in Korean entertainment companies (SM Entertainment, CJ Entertainment, JYP, YG Entertainment) may line up with your investment view.
Interviews about this topic with Jasper Kim, Asia-Pacific Global Research Group, are below:
ABC TV’s Nightline with Jim Middleton:
available here with ABC, the Australian Broadcasting Corp’s “Common Knowledge” program (interview begins from the 15:00 min mark):
The actual “Gangnam Style” music video featuring PSY is below: