Power of Psy, power of Korea
Psy rocks Seoul Plaza with own style
By Kim Tong-hyung
Tens of thousands of citizens hopped and screamed in joy on Seoul Plaza Thursday for the first time in 10 years.
The last time the massive plaza was packed with this many people was when Korea’s national football squad fought its way to the final four of the World Cup held at home in the most dramatic expression of home field advantage.
Well, the hero for more than 50,000 fans who gathered at the plaza will never be confused as a world-class athlete making dizzying moves on huge television screens.
A chubby 34-year-old rapper isn’t supposed to command such a crowd, let alone force the Seoul Metropolitan Government to extend the subway hours into the early dawn, but that’s exactly what Psy pulled off.
If anyone had foreseen months earlier that Psy, who had been dismissed as a has-been in the fast-changing K-pop scene, would step up as Korea’s first globally transcendent musician and credited for the most popular dance on the Internet, then Nostradamus is truly out of business.
Psy is now Korea’s unlikeliest and arguably happiest success story and his jam-packed performance at the heart of the nation’s capital proved that he has more than enough people willing to celebrate with him.
The global popularity of Psy’s song “Gangnam Style,” as well as the invisible horse riding in the music video, has truly been exceptional. The song is climbing global music charts like Billboard and the video is shattering the hits record on YouTube.
The world star threw the free concert at the plaza to keep his promise that he will perform his song topless to thank his fans if his song claims No. 1 spot on the Billboard Chart. Gangnam Style is expected to stand atop the chart next week.
Psy even managed to get a football tribute, albeit an American football one. Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Domata Peko celebrated his sack of Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert with the Gangnam Style dance in a recent match between the National Football League (NFL) teams.
It could be said that the success of Psy has been injecting a positive vibe to the Korean psyche. Despite the country’s rapid economic growth over the past 50 years, a sense of insecurity and the metaphorical chip on the shoulder has always been evident when Koreans speak of themselves in the context of the global scene. This perhaps, explains why policymakers are already touting Psy as an export item along the lines of mobile phones, cheap cars and kimchi.
But Psy is clearly not a success story that the country has seen before. In a country obsessed with finding and providing what the world wants, Psy hit the gold trail by sticking to what he wants to do and does best. It could be said that his success doubles as a jab at the K-pop business model. Fans will respond more to originality than one-size-fits-all music performed by pretty people with slick dance moves.
Just ask JYP, the entertainment company backing groups like 2PM and Wonder Girls, which has little to show for its Herculean effort to matter on the U.S. music charts.