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Posted : 2013-02-25 18:19
Updated : 2013-02-25 18:19

Psy horse-dances, Sumi Jo sings

Korean rapper Psy of "Gangnam Style" fame performs during the inauguration ceremony for President Park Geun-hye in front of the National Assembly building in Yeouido, Seoul, Monday. / Yonhap

By Yun Suh-young

Baritone Choi Hyun-soo, left, and soprano Su-mi Jo sing the national anthem. / Yonhap
Psy jazzed up the stage ahead of President Park Geun-hye's inauguration.

The Korean rapping sensation highlighted a slew of entertainers in front of the National Assembly in Yeouido, Seoul, Monday.

Organizers, who may or may not have been inspired by the old "We Are the World" video, prepared a lavish and heart-warming show for a President who claims her biggest priority is bringing together a sharply divided nation. Park had wished her inauguration ceremony to be a "festival to unite the nation," so it was a natural decision to push culture to the forefront.

The performances kicked off at 9:20 a.m., about an hour-and-a-half before Park was sworn in as president. The troupe of Kim Duk-soo, master of "samulnori," or Korean traditional percussion music, opened up the act with an energetic performance and was followed by Kim Young-im, a master of "pansori," or traditional narrative singing, who blended Park's life story and political philosophies in her lyrics.

Comedians from the KBS television sketch comedy show Gag Concert then took to the stage and emceed a program titled "Generation Performance." It featured a group of pop singers and musical actors — including Jang Yoon-jung, Nam Kyung-joo, Sonya and Psy —singing a medley of hit songs from the 1950s to the present, backed by a choir of more than 400 amateur enthusiasts and college students.

That set up Psy's much-anticipated solo performance, which started at around 10:40 a.m. Psy, appearing on stage wearing a black tuxedo with a bow tie and sunglasses, opened with "Champion," a 2005 song that was a big hit in Korea, and predictably followed with "Gangnam Style," a 2012 song that was a massive hit across the world.

"I want everyone to stand up and dance to the music together!" Psy shouted before getting into Gangnam Style, creating an unusual scene where most of the 70,000 people in attendance rose up from their seats to ride invisible horses, although the level of enthusiasm differed greatly.

Minutes after Psy stepped down, Park arrived in a luxury vehicle and the oath taking part of the ceremony began.

A military band greeted the new President with a marching song and then following the pledge of allegiance, Soprano Sumi Jo and baritone Choi Hyun-soo sang the first verse of the national anthem.

Choi wore a black tuxedo and Jo wore a white dress with three black streaks running across it, with a large "taegeuk" symbol that makes up the center of the Korean flag pinched to the dress above her left shoulder.

After Park delivered the inaugural address, where she pledged to open an era of "cultural abundance together with the people," another set of entertainers took the stage to wrap up the ceremony.

"Arirang Fantasy," a piece written by Japanese-Korean New Age musician Yang Bang-eon, was performed by singer Insooni, jazz vocalist Nah Youn-sun, musical actress Choi Jung-won and pansori master An Sook-seon, with Yang himself on the piano and the Korean Symphony Orchestra adding the depth in sound.

Insooni had her hair up and wore a white jacket with a black shirt underneath. Choi had her hair tied up and was dressed in an entirely white suit while Nah wore a black suit from head to toe. The three's black and white fashion contrasted with master An's "hanbok," or traditional formal attire.

The four's harmonies lasted for about 10 minutes as the song had several versions of verses that continued. Just when the audience expected it to end, another version began.

Insooni and Choi opened with a duet. Seconds later, master An started an upbeat traditional version of the song swinging with her folding fan about.

The citizen's choir backed her up. Then Nah sang a quieter, andante version of the song and Insooni joined in creating a duet.

Finally, an upbeat version of the song began with everyone singing in unison with the song ending dramatically.

When the song ended, President Park re-appeared, greeted former presidents, shook hands with them and saw former President Lee Myung-bak off, waving as he and the former first lady headed off to their private residence.

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