by das monde
Fri Aug 24th, 2012 at 02:35:46 AM EST
A big Youtube sensation this summer has been the music video "Gangnam style" by the Korean rapper PSY.
He is not a usual K-pop act, being 34 and chubby. But he likes to entertain, and now he became the first Korean pop artist to break through in the US.
So first, enjoy:
Here is a bit of lyrics (from below-the-fold to this youtube video):
A girl who is warm and humanle during the day
A classy girl who know how to enjoy the freedom of a cup of coffee
A girl whose heart gets hotter when night comes
A girl with that kind of twist
I'm a guy
A guy who is as warm as you during the day
A guy who one-shots his coffee before it even cools down
A guy whose heart bursts when night comes
That kind of guy
Yes you, hey, yes you, hey...
Is there more to this hilarity? Surely, there is.
Gangnam is the posh Seoul neighborhood, the summit of highest Korean affluence dreams. That kind of neighborhood.
Let me switch now to a lazy quote mode, citing this The Atlantic article.
As it says, Korea has not had a long history of nuanced satire. But:
One of the first things Hong pointed to in explaining the video's subtext was, believe it or not, South Korea's sky-high credit card debt rate. In 2010, the average household carried credit card debt worth a staggering 155 percent of their disposable income (for comparison, the U.S. average just before the sub-prime crisis was 138 percent). There are nearly five credit cards for every adult. South Koreans have been living on credit since the mid-1990s, first because their country's amazing growth made borrowing seem safe, and then in the late 1990s when the government encouraged private spending to climb out of the Asian financial crisis [...]
Gangnam, Hong said, is a symbol of that aspect of South Korean culture. The neighborhood is the home of some of South Korea's biggest brands, as well as $84 billion of its wealth, as of 2010. That's seven percent of the entire country's GDP in an area of just 15 square miles. A place of the most conspicuous consumption, you might call it the embodiment of South Korea's one percent [...]
"I think some of you may be wondering why he's making such a big deal out of coffee, but it's not your ordinary coffee," U.S.-based Korean blogger Jea Kim wrote at her site, My Dear Korea [...] "In Korea, there's a joke poking fun at women who eat 2,000-won (about $2) ramen for lunch and then spend 6,000 won on Starbucks coffee." They're called Doenjangnyeo, or "soybean paste women" for their propensity to crimp on essentials so they can over-spend on conspicuous luxuries, of which coffee is, believe it or not, one of the most common [...]
The video is "a satire about Gangnam itself but also it's about how people outside Gangnam pursue their dream to be one of those Gangnam residents without even realizing what it really means," Kim explained to me when I got in touch with her. Koreans "really wanted to be one of them," but she says that feeling is changing, and "Gangnam Style" captures people's ambivalence.
"Koreans have been kind of caught up in this spending to look wealthy, and Gangnam has really been the leading edge of that," Hong said. "I think a lot of what [Psy] is pointing out is how silly that is. The whole video is about him thinking he's a hotshot but then realizing he's just, you know, at a children's playground, or thinking he's playing polo or something and realizes he's on a merry-go-round."
If this is too serious for this time, enjoy PSY making an appearance at an American baseball game: