Marketplace‘s Queena Kim makes the case that “Gangnam Style,” the viral video made by K-pop star PSY (short for “Psycho”), is part of a broader conversation in Korea about its growing income inequity.
On the face of it, the video seems simple enough: a guy dressed in ostentatious outfits, surrounded by hot babes, doing goofy dances. This has led some Korean-Americans to worry that the video might be seen as no more than what writer Jeff Yang calls “crazy Asians doing crazy Asian stuff.”
But there’s a growing chorus of critics who say there is more to the video than that. Gangnam is an area in South Korea’s Seoul that’s like “Beverly Hills meets Las Vegas,” according to the Marketplace piece, where wealthy young men and women engage in the most over-the-top conspicuous consumption.
Writer Sukjong Hong says that PSY’s satire goes after “power and privilege in a country where a single district has long dominated in almost every arena.” In the video, PSY apes the moves of the rich playboys, from the “curled upper lip to a sinister neck-stretching.”
Hong says that while Gangnam only represented about 3 percent of the country’s population in 2010, “40-percent of Seoul’s registered assets were concentrated in Kangnam.”
Kyeyoung Park, a professor in the East Asian Studies department at UCLA, says PSY’s video is part of a larger “Occupy-like conversation” currently taking place in Korea. And Yang from the Wall Street Journal calls the spoof “a subversive set of rips at Korea’s hypermaterialistic and increasingly inequitable society.”
Stars from Justin Bieber to Britney Spears are lining up to sing the goofy video’s praise (sometimes target=”_hplink”>literally). But is the social commentary lost on English-speaking American audiences?
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