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Monday, December 10, 2012

The Real PSY: Killing "Gangster Style"

"Kill those f**king Yankees who have been torturing Iraqi captives
Kill those f**king Yankees who ordered them to torture

Kill their daughters, mothers, daughters-in-law, and fathers
Kill them all slowly and painfully..."

PSY, the South Korean rapper famous for “Gangnam Style,” the viral smash hit which broke the record for the most watched YouTube video in history, recently apologized for a 2004 performance in which he said American soldiers and their families should be killed “slowly and painfully.”

The song during his 2004 appearance opens with the sounds of a semi-automatic gun, a reverberating clang of Asian-style cymbals, then the sounds of a muezzin calling Muslims to prayer by reciting verses from the Koran.

PSY, whose real name is Park Jae-sang, has rode the "Gangnam Style" frenzy his year to become quite a wealthy man. Considering his earnings from downloads and streams of the music, TV commercials, and YouTube revenue, the Associated Press estimated that PSY will rake in at least $8.1 million in United States currency for 2012.

(Youkyung Lee and Ryan Nakashima, "PSY's Riches From 'Gangnam Style'
Not Made at Home," Associated Press, December 5 2012)
Also, PSY has received numerous accolades for his work. PSY was recognized by the United Nations as an "International sensation." U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon scheduled a meeting with PSY in the belief that music has great power to overcome intolerance, and in October 2012, they met at the United Nations Headquarters where Ban expressed his desire to work with PSY. He remarked that PSY has an "unlimited global reach" and said, "I hope that we can work together using your global reach."

(Lizzy Davies, "Rapper PSY brings Gangnam Style
Horseplay to United Nations," The Guardian October 24 2012)

In addition to recognition from the U.N. secretary, Korean newspaper The Dong-a Ilbo, reported that PSY was appointed as a goodwill ambassador of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

("U.N. Chief Gets Down 'Gangnam Style' With Rapper PSY,"
The Dong-a Ilbo, October 25 2012)

And, on October 27, 2012, South Korea's Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism announced its decision to award PSY the Okgwan Order, a 4th grade Order of Cultural Merit.“We recognized his contribution to the development of the nation’s culture and art. With K-pop (Korean popular music) spreading across the world, his song has raised Korea’s national brand,” an official said.

But, even then, before the controversy over PSY's 2004 anti-American history surfaced, some in Korea said he didn't deserve such an honor citing his brief career and relatively small contribution to the country's cultural development.
(Rahn Kim, "Psy's Order of Merit Hits Opposition," Korea Times, October 27 2012)

In fact, his first full-length album, PSY from the PSYcho World! (2001), drew accusations from many in South Korea who said that the album contained "inappropriate content." He released another controversial second album Sa 2 in 2002, which sparked complaints from concerned civil groups due to the potentially negative influence his album would have on children and teenagers. The government actually issued warnings on some of his songs.

Since then, in South Korea, PSY has been thought of as a controversial artist, and Sa 2 was banned in 2002 from being sold to those under the age of 19. Later in September the same year, Psy released his third album 3 PSY. The album's title song, "Champion," saw great success partly due to the hype from the World Cup games held in Seoul.

The government recently withdrew its warnings  on some of his songs.“You (the government) have treated Psy’s music as something harmful, and now do you think he is praiseworthy because he has brought so much foreign money to the country? This is how Korea treats culture and art,” a tweeter said.

And, the music industry has also recognized PSY for his pop appeal. On November 12, 2012, PSY became the second South Korean music artist to appear at the MTV Europe Music Awards where he performed "Gangnam Style" and held off competition from Rihanna, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga to win the "Best Video" award. In addition, in November 2012, PSY's success via the Internet was honoured with the New Media award at the American Music Awards.

(PSY Lands American Music Award for New Media, 3 News NZ, November 14 2012)

The accolades seem to never stop rolling in. On November 30, PSY won four awards at the 2012 Mnet Asian Music Awards in Hong Kong -- Best Dance Performance Solo, International Favourite Artist, Best Music Video and one of MAMA's grand prize, Song of the Year. There, he met actor and stunt performer Jackie Chan, who called PSY "a legend."

(Lynette Phua, "PSY Sweeps Four Awards at Mnet Asian Music Awards," 
Channel NewsAsia,  December 1 2012)

Apology From "Legendary" PSY

Here’s the apology Psy released through his publicist, in full:

“As a proud South Korean who was educated in the United States and lived there for a very significant part of my life, I understand the sacrifices American servicemen and women have made to protect freedom and democracy in my country and around the world.”

“The song in question — from eight years ago — was part of a deeply emotional reaction to the war in Iraq and the killing of two Korean schoolgirls that was part of the overall antiwar sentiment shared by others around the world at that time. While I’m grateful for the freedom to express one’s self, I’ve learned there are limits to what language is appropriate and I’m deeply sorry for how these lyrics could be interpreted. I will forever be sorry for any pain I have caused anyone by those words.”

“I have been honored to perform in front of American soldiers in recent months — including an appearance on the Jay Leno show specifically for them — and I hope they and all Americans can accept my apology. While it’s important we express our opinions, I deeply regret the inflammatory and inappropriate language I used to do so. In my music I try to give people a release, a reason to smile. I have learned that though music, our universal language we can all come together as a culture of humanity and I hope that you will accept my apology.”

My Take

Global reach? Art? Goodwill ambassador? Legend? What have we become? By what standards do we appropriate our praise?

I am never surprised to witness the incredible influence of money, media, and fame. When the chips are down and the money is on the table, when the infectious fame and acclaim are threatened, and when a "15 Minutes of Fame" celebrity must open wide and swallow his/her own nasty medicine, the weasel enters Damage Control Mode. I see the much-celebrated PSY as no exception.

PSY now claims, after his tremendous "fame" and monetary gain, that he "understands the sacrifices of American servicemen and women." Well, to me, that sounds like bullshit.

I will tell you that PSY evaded South Korean compulsory military duty by working at a software developing company, and was expected to be released from duties in 2005, but in 2007, state prosecutors accused PSY of "neglecting" his work. They announced they had acquired evidence proving that PSY had violated working regulations banning employees from participating in private activities during regular work hours -- it seems he chose to hold concerts and appear on local television networks during his employment period.

The administration requested Park enlist on Aug. 6 for another 20-month service. But he refused, filing a lawsuit against the government, claiming that its decision is unfair.

So, on October 12, 2007, the Seoul Administrative Court decided that PSY must be redrafted, and rejected a lawsuit filed by PSY against the Military Manpower Administration (MMA) earlier in August. PSY was re-drafted into the military 2 months later. During his time in the military, PSY held the rank of Private First Class and served as a signalman in South Korea's 52th Army Infantry Division, before being released from duties in July 2009.
("Psy Called Up for Military Again," Korea Times, December 12 2007)

I cannot fathom why PSY would not have apologized for the 2004 performance long before December 2012. Might it have something to do with his regret being dependent upon the worldwide distribution of his anti-American sentiments and the negative consequences?

I question whether his conscience or his desire for continued fame drove him to issue the apology. This happened just before he will be allowed to perform at the annual "Christmas in Washington" fundraiser on December 21, which the President of the United States and his family will be attending. What a coincidence. I think he should not be permitted to perform at the fundraiser. Let me explain further...

Psy performed this song or part of the song at two different South Korean protests. In 2002 he performed it at a protest geared against the massive presence of U.S. troops in his country and the alleged crimes they have been known to commit against local Koreans who live near their base. And then, of course, he performed it in 2004. Let's set the record straight. It happened more than once.

(Shirin Sadeghi, "Gangnam Style: PSY Apologizes for Word Choice,
Not for Being Anti-War," Huffington Post, December 7 2012)

PSY also says he is "grateful for the freedom to express one’s self." I hope he does understand the difference between living in North and South Korea as it relates to liberty. Thanks to America's involvement in the Korean War, PSY has been granted the independence to do as he likes -- and, evidently, he has liked making horrible, hateful comments about his liberators, the Americans.

Mind you, PSY chose to make these comments because he once believed (and possibly still believes) this doctrine of slaughter -- even if he is sorry now, that doesn't mean he should not suffer the fallout and all the consequences of his past actions.

If PSY had been born in North Korea, he would have no freedom of expression. There, citizens must follow a socialist way of life. Criticism of the government and its leaders is strictly curtailed and making such statements can be cause for arrest and consignment to one of North Korea's "re-education" camps. In North Korea, the government distributes all radio and television sets; citizens are forbidden to alter them to make it possible to receive broadcasts from other nations, and doing so carries severe penalties.

North Korea's human rights record has been widely condemned, including by Amnesty International and the United Nations. It is estimated that between 150,000 and 200,000 political prisoners are detained in North Korean concentration camps, where they perform slave labour and risk summary beatings, torture and execution.

In his apology, PSY continues to say "I’m deeply sorry for how these lyrics could be interpreted." Interpreted? "Kill them all slowly and painfully." I know of no other interpretation of these words than heinous torture and murder. How in the world could an American "interpret" otherwise? PSY's meaning was clear, yet now with money and fame, he clings to the idea of blaming people who might somehow misinterpret him? His past, hateful speech is impossible to misinterpret. He should "own up" to his words, especially since he claims to be a musical artist who uses these symbols to invoke meaning and particular significance.

And, finally, PSY asks for forgiveness by saying, "While it’s important we express our opinions, I deeply regret the inflammatory and inappropriate language I used to do so." He apologizes for the language he used; however, he never speaks of using persuasion and influence to advance his hate speech and political platfom. In fact, he never says he regrets the intent.

I think I understand that PSY really doesn't "get it." His derogatory "words" were senseless arrows of ignorant speech meant to condemn our government. For whatever reason he chose to use these words to make cruel comments -- protest, revenge, self pity-- I don't care. What I do care about is the person behind the words and that person's motivation to seek forgiveness at this time. I believe the man is a phony.

I don't care for a person begging me to "come together as a culture of humanity" when he has shown very little respect for culture or humanity himself. Maybe PSY has grown up. Maybe he is "forever sorry." I hope he is sorry, but I suspicion he is just another captive of money, media, and fame who will do whatever it takes to hang around another 15 Minutes.

Just consider that the apology was released by his publicist. What is the one of the most important tasks of a publicist? Can you spell "D-A-M-A-G-E  C-O-N-T-R-O-L"?  

 "True friends stab you in the front."
  ~Oscar Wilde
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