Oppan Gangnam style: Psy's popularity and its social significance in contemporary Korea

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Psy s music video Gangnam Style has gone viral since its release in July 2012, attracting more than a billion hits on YouTube by December 2012. The music video has become the most popular in the entire history of the video streaming website. On 31 December 2012, Psy performed in a globally televised New Year s Eve celebration in front of over a million live audiences in Times Square, New York. Gangnam Style has been played and enjoyed even by households in North Korea, which strictly controls its inflows of capitalist popular media and culture. This paper looks for key factors that brought about the popularity of Psy and his Gangnam Style music video in terms of his personal attributes and the national and transnational contexts. The paper also analyses popular media accounts on Psy s success from South Korea, and explores the socio-cultural functions and meanings that are varyingly attached to the popularity of Gangnam Style. Psy s global popularity has been a significant point of encouragement for many South Koreans struggling to stay on top of their financial challenges, since they identify with his ordinariness and envy his success. Interestingly, Psy satirises the snobbish Gangnam culture, while his creative performance and the audio-visual of the music video are representative of Gangnam culture itself. Thus South Korean audiences find themselves simultaneously admiring and ridiculing Psy. Fun and enjoyment seem to be central to the music video s attraction for South Korean and global audiences looking for personal time and space in the entertainment-oriented neo-liberal context.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91 - 115
Number of pages25
JournalInternational Review of Korean Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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