[ View the story "K-pop diplomacy" on Storify] K-pop diplomacy South Korea’s soft power goes Gangnam Style.
Storified by The Stream · Tue, Sep 04 2012 02:00:18
PSY - GANGNAM STYLE (강남스타일) M/Vofficialpsy
In less than two months, Korean pop star Psy's hit video for "Gangnam Style" has received more than 95,000,000 views and prompted a slew of parody and reaction videos:
싸이 오빤강남스타일 (여자반응)choiyoungkyu
"Gangnam Style" has not only contributed to 2012's financial gains for South Korea's pop (or K-pop) industry, but has provided a platform for larger conversations about how K-pop may reflect larger societal pressures within South Korea.
Since its rise in popularity, people have speculated what the video - atypical of many other K-pop hits - tries to convey. Some think the video is little more than a self-parody, but others insist that it is stark social commentary on South Korea's wealthy Gangnam province.
tells the Atlantic:
"I think it all ties back to the same thing: the pursuit of materialism, the pursuit of form over function," Hong said. "Koreans made extraordinary gains as a country, in terms of GDP and everything else, but that growth has not been equitable. I think the young people are finally realizing that. There's a genuine backlash. ... You're seeing a huge amount of resentment from youth about their economic circumstances." Even if Psy wasn't specifically nodding to this when he wrote the song and shot the video, it's part of the contemporary South Korean society that he inhabits.Gangnam Style, Dissected: The Subversive Message Within South Korea's Music Video Sensation - Max Fisher - The Atlantic
In a review of the video, bloggers Simon and Martina of
Eat Your Kimchi
poke fun at those who seek deeper political meaning from PSY's smash hit:
Kpop Music Mondays - Psy "Gangnam Style"simonandmartina
Though parody in K-pop is not a
phenomenon, many do note that PSY and his hit music video appear to be a departure from typical K-pop acts, like 2NE1 or Girls' Generation, pictured below.
Most K-pop groups are owned by a handful of entertainment agencies. These agencies sponsor rigorous training processes that aim to create pop super groups that are close to perfection.
The clip below by
does a mashup of several recent K-pop hits, showing how the manufactured hits all seem to mirror one another:
ULTIMATE K-POP SONGmmixes
Since 2002, the K-pop industry has been supported and endorsed by the South Korean government. This formula has paid off for Korean tourism, business, and cultural influence. As of May 2012, the industry
an estimated value of 4.2 billion USD,
joint business ventures between some of the largest entertainment companies and Korea's Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism.
101 East - South Korea's Pop Wavealjazeeraenglish
The image below shows the growth of these major agencies' stock values - in billions of South Korean won - over the last year.
The Jakarta PostAJstream
Since 1960, South Korea's economy has grown to be the world's eleventh largest. While the "K-pop wave" has helped bolster the economy, much of this success is closely related to other large business conglomerates (called chaebols) within the country.
In 2011, the top ten chaebols - many of which are electronics, financial, and energy corporations - held 77 per cent of South Korea's GDP. Some
that this reliance on these conglomerates, though helpful in the past, is becoming unsustainable.
South Korea's rapid economic development has contributed to disparities between provinces, driven by capital and military interests. Below, people in Gangjung Village perform a parody of PSY's hit, dubbed "Gangjung Style" to reflect the experience of their province. The villagers used the parody as a platform to protest the
of a South Korean naval base on their island of Jeju, South Korea.
US-based Korean blogger Jea Kim
that the intentional investment in and development of the Gangnam province contributed to land and real estate bubbles within the country.
suggested that this disparity is reflected in South Korean higher education, as well. Of the student body at prestigious Seoul National University, 41 per cent come from wealthy Gangnam, Seocho, and Songpa provinces, shown below in dark and medium blue.
Kim goes on to say, "The uneven development between Gangnam and Gangbuk has made the former more affluent and its residents richer but made the latter lag behind and its residents feel deprived emotionally as well as economically".
South Korea has one of the world's highest suicide rates per capita. Among the 34 member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Korea ranks at the top in suicide rates, and well above the OECD average.
Organization for Economic Co-operation and DevelopmentAJstream
This pressure has been directly
in K-pop, with several high-profile stars committing suicide in the past seven years. Many blame the K-pop formula - which emphasises both perfection and multi-dimensional approachability - for pressuring its own stars.
This scrutiny is faced by many Koreans in aspects of everyday life, such as academic
and personal appearance.
The photo below, taken by blogger
in Gangnam, exemplifies the extreme results expected from plastic surgery:
South Korea holds the global lead for cosmetic plastic surgery procedures, both invasive and non-invasive.
Regardless of the crtiques raised by PSY's "Gangnam Style", the
of K-pop shows little sign of slowing down.
PSY (ft. HYUNA) 오빤 딱 내 스타일officialpsy
8일간의 미국 일정을 마치고 돌아갑니당...8-dayz-staying in the US was excitement itself~!!! along with korean made 'HYUNDAI'~!!!