Psy and K-pops
Few Koreans will want to make little of or speak ill of the global sensation Psy has touched off. Still, one can hardly deny some bewildering elements in the worldwide frenzy about this Korean singer-rapper and his mega hit, “Gangnam Style.”
We Koreans, who understand the delicately nuanced messages in its words _ both envy and mockery of noveau riche living in southern Seoul along with all its ambivalent dualism (“dress classy, dance cheesy,” “do the silly but seriously”) ― just think the song is quite “Psy-like.” The reason foreigners loved it even before they knew the meaning from English translation may be the addictive, infectious and modifiable refrains accompanied by merry, creasing-up horse-trotting dance.
The global trend toward preferring something funnier and lighter even in the light pop entertainment in this era of gloomy economic times plus the abhorrence of high and mighty elite as well as the communication revolution of SNS served as timely helpers. Never to be neglected, either, was the solid foundations laid by K-pop idol groups and stars.
These musicians, along with some successful movie directors and actors, are the pioneers of hallyu, who have moved Korea from the outermost periphery of global entertainment industry a little toward its center, and turned the nation from its one-sided consumer to partial producer. The question is where to go from here or how to sustain this modest initial success.
Some say Psy provides the answer. But the 35-year-old entertainer, like Kim Yu-na in figure skating and Park Tae-hwan in swimming, is just a rare exception, not the fruit from a big tree.
It is ironic that the successful advances abroad by K-pop groups are the result of fierce competition for survival in their own country, where the price of downloading a song is less than one-10th of foreign markets. This is the opposite case of manufacturers, who made up for their overseas losses by scalping the “captive consumers” at home. But these idols sometimes appear to be rather athletes or even machines than artists. Without better contents and marketing, their popularity, both individually and as a whole, will be short-lived.
The best way for the industry’s sustainable growth through encouraging diversity and artistry is to give back its due shares through deregulation.
As to Psy, there are some skeptics about the rather negative publicity this comic character produces about his country, even linking it to Koreans’ inferiority complex wanting exposure, of any kind.
Most Koreans will regard such criticism as envy rather than mockery, and wish the video, which broke Guinness records’ most liked videos, will also do so in the most visited category, too. Go Psy, go!