Psy — who real name is Park Jae-sang — is a singer, rapper, songwriter, and record producer and arguable the best known person in South Korea. His mega-hit “Gangnam Style” (2012) was one of the biggest hits to come out of Asia — or for that matter the entire world. Korea. YouTube said the video for the song is its most watched video ever, having been viewed almost 4 billion times as of late 2020. The strange thing about Psy though is that he is not really K-Pop, he’s more anti-K-Pop — he's short, overweight and makes fun of himself. K-Pop is known more for it well-rehearsed, perfectly-synched, slicked-back sound. Psy has fronted a range of products, from Hite beer and Samsung refrigerators to a line of cosmetics for men called Man’s Balm.

Psy is often in full caps as PSY. He is known in South Korea for his humorous videos and outrageous stage performances. In December 2012, MTV noted Psy's rise from obscurity outside South Korea to the "Viral Star of 2012". On December 31, 2012, Psy performed in a globally televised New Year's Eve celebration with American rapper MC Hammer in front of live audience of over a million people in Times Square, New York City. The refrain his international hit single "Gangnam Style" was named by The Yale Book of Quotations as one of the most famous quotations of 2012. By 2020, “Gangnam Style” had slipped to 8th place on the most-viewed videos on YouTube list behind things like "Baby Shark Dance", Despacito and “Shape of You” by Ed Sheeran, which have between 5 billion and 7.5 billion hits each. [Source: Wikipedia ]

Regina Kim wrote in Rolling Stone:“When PSY’s “Gangnam Style” blew up globally in 2012, Koreans were shocked and puzzled. While PSY was well-known in South Korea, he was nowhere near the most popular artist, much less someone likely to break into the American market. But when “Gangnam Style” became the most viewed video on YouTube, the Korean media and even the Korean government suddenly couldn’t get enough of him, hailing him as a national hero for catapulting his country to global stardom. His face was plastered everywhere, from Korean cosmetics to instant noodle ads to postage stamps. A statue commemorating his viral hit was erected in Seoul. [Source: Regina Kim, Rolling Stone, December 9, 2020]

Gangnam Style and Psy Not K-Pop

John Seabrook wrote in The New Yorker: “Ironically, for all the money that the agencies invest in idol-making”, in South Korea, “the success of PSY, the first Korean pop star to break out in the U.S., took place largely outside the factory system. PSY is with the Y.G. agency, but he has never been idol material. His first album, “PSY from the PSYcho World!,” was condemned for “inappropriate content,” and his second, “Ssa 2,” was banned for anyone under nineteen. In 2001, he was arrested and fined for smoking pot, and, during his mandatory military service, he neglected his duties and had to serve again. He’s a Korean pop star, but he’s not K-pop, and by satirizing standard K-pop tropes in “Gangnam Style,” PSY may have subverted K-pop’s chances of making it big in the West. At the very least, that a pudgy guy with a goofy dance can succeed where the most brilliantly engineered idol groups have not suggests that cultural technology can get you only so far.”

"I know a lot of people think 'Gangnam Style' is opening the floodgates," Simon Stawski, of Eat Your Kimchi video blog, told The Verge, , but the song is much different than most K-Pop. "[T]here's a lot of irony and humor in that video, while other K-Pop songs are very serious and sexy and very well crafted." Joseph L. Flatley wrote in The Verge: “Your typical K-Pop idol group is composed of several rather anonymous youngsters, so attractive that they’re boring. "The mainstream success that Psy has," Simon continues, "we don't see that [happening] in other kinds of K-Pop, but we still see a vast amount of success happening on an underground level." [Source: Joseph L. Flatley, The Verge, October 18, 2012]

“The most telling thing about Psy’s popularity in the U.S. is that he avoids the K-Pop "idol" schtick entirely. He isn’t model thin, and the video for "Gangnam Style" is a send-up of the trendy denizens of Seoul’s Gangnam district. Essentially, the song is a comical swipe against the type of image that most K-Pop stars portray. Although the song is sung in Korean, the music is as pure a slice of modern American pop as anything in the states. And the video is really rather funny, in any language.

“It’s probably worth noting here that, unlike the majority of entertainers that came up through Korea’s idol system, Psy (real name: Park Jae-sang) was educated at Boston University and Berklee College of Music. He’s also a bit of a troublemaker. In 2007, he got busted for trying to weasel out of mandatory military service and as a result was inducted into the ROK Army, where he remained until summer 2009. According to the NME:. "One of the reasons Psy's 'Gangnam Style' has been so popular in the west is because he has a very specific personality type." In other words, he has a personality. He isn’t hiding behind a group name or label. "Bands such as SHINee or Girls' Generation are kind of anonymous, whereas Psy or G-Dragon from Big Bang have emphasised personalities, and that's why they've managed to cross over."”

Psy’s Life

Park Jae-sang was born in on December 31, 1977 to an affluent family in the Gangnam District of Seoul, South Korea. His father, Park Won-Ho, is the executive chairman of DI Corporation, a Korea-Exchange-listed manufacturer of semiconductor manufacturing equipment. His mother, Kim Young-hee, owns several restaurants in Gangnam. [Source: Wikipedia]

Park attended Banpo Elementary and Middle Schools and Sehwa High School in Seoul. He didn’t like studying so much and was known as the class clown. A former teacher told South Korea's Seoul Broadcasting System: "I remember Psy making a lot of sexual jokes during class. He had such a big influence that he would drive the entire class to his jokes. I disliked him at the time, but looking back, I see that he added a great energy to the class."

Park told CNN' that seeing Queen perform their 1975 hit single "Bohemian Rhapsody" on television when he was 15 sparked his interest in music enough to pursue it as career. With no other interest except music, Psy convinced his father to send him to Boston University to study business administration, in part so he could escape his strict household, telling him that studying in the U.S was an important step to being his successor and a successful “global CEO” Psy went to the U.S. but filed a leave of absence from the university and got his tuition refunded. After spending some time partying and enjoying himself, he took some for self-reflection. “I realized that I liked people laughing and being happy. And I liked watching people who laugh and enjoy life,” he later told a Korean TV Channel. [Source: Krish Venkat, Ananthaa Consulting, May 20, 2014]

Psy was in the U.S. in the 1990s and noticed the huge impact hip hop was having there. Using money from his refunded tuition he bought music instruments and started composing his own music. This enabled him to get an admission into the Berklee College of Music. When Berklee sent an invitation to Psy’s parents for the annual Parents Day, that is when they found out that Psy had dropped out of Boston University. They cut off all financial support. Not long after that he returned to South Korea. There, he eked out a living while composing songs, which he sent to every music agency in Korea and received zero response

At that time Psy was not familiar with the Internet or social media. A musician friend Cho PD became his room mate. He observed how Cho uploaded all his songs on the Internet and this gained him a lot of attention. Cho became an instant internet star and a professional singer. Psy followed the same path. Soon, the same agency who signed up Cho, called Psy to make an album. Noticing that Psy was good at parodying and making fun of people the agency told hime to highlight that aspect of his work.

In late 2001, Psy was arrested for smoking and possessing marijuana and was fined and sentenced to 25 days in jail. As a result, he was unable to be at his grandfather's deathbed as he died of cancer, or attend his funeral. During an interview in 2012 Psy said: "I was very close to him. I was not there at the funeral: I will regret this for the rest of my life, because my grandpa loved me so much, and I couldn't be there for him on his deathbed."

Psy’s Music Career

Psy made his first appearance on Korean national television in 2000 after his dancing caught the eye of a TV producer. The stage name "Psy" was derives from the word psycho. He told the BBC in an interview, "what I thought was, you know, crazy about music, dancing, performance, so that kind of psycho". His debut album ‘PSY ... From the Psycho World!’ was released in 2001. It was considered revolutionary and controversial in conservative South Korea and was censored and fined "inappropriate content". His blunt lyrics, peculiar dance moves and onstage antics earned him the nickname "The Bizarre Singer". [Source: Wikipedia, Krish Venkat, Ananthaa Consulting, May 20, 2014]

Psy released his second album, ‘Sa 2’ in 2002, followed by ‘3 Psy’ that same year. ‘Sa Jib (4)’ came out in 2006 and ‘PSY Five’ in 2010. ‘Sa 2' was deemed as having a potentially negative influence on children and teenagers and was banned in 2002 from being sold to the kids 18 and under. ‘3 Psy’‘s song, "Champion" was a big success as it was released when the South Korean soccer team was having great success at the World Cup hosted in South Korea. Ssajib, won honors at the 2006 SBS Music Awards and Hong Kong's Mnet Asian Music Awards. Even much before the release of ‘Gangnam Style’, Psy was big in South Korea, attracting as many as 30,000 people to his concerts and winning awards for songwriting at the Seoul Music Awards.

In 2003, Psy was asked to perform his mandatory military service. He was excused from military duty due to working at a software development company (the South Korean government grants exemptions to those with technical expertise work in companies that serve the national interest). His duty was over in 2005. But in 2008 Psy was forced to do his military service again and join the army for real after authorities determined he had abused the law that allowed him to serve in a private company rather than a military unit by continue his show business work while purportedly working at the software company. PSY joined the army in 2008 to spend two years fulfilling his service after authorities found he had abused a law allowing him to serve in a private company instead of a military outfit. He was freed from his duties in July 2009.

Psy and Gangnam Style Make It Big in the U.S.

"Gangnam Style" — the title song of Psy’s sixth album — was posted on YouTube in July, 2012. By September it has racked up more than 150 million views and spawned a number of “admiring parodies.” Nam You-Sun of AFP wrote: “A chubby thirty-something with wacky dance moves,” Psy “falls far short of the prettified, teenage ideal embodied by the stars of South Korea's phenomenally successful K-pop industry. But" Psy "has succeeded where the industry-manufactured girl and boy bands have tried and failed, making a huge splash on the mainstream US music scene thanks to a viral video and a rare sense of irony. [Source: Nam You-Sun, AFP, September 13, 2012]

“The accompanying worldwide publicity has earned him a US contract with Justin Bieber's management agency, a guest appearance at last week's MTV awards in Los Angeles and a spot on NBC's flagship "Today" show. Earlier this week he was given the opportunity to school US pop diva Britney Spears on his increasingly famous signature dance moves on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show".

“It remains to be seen if "Gangnam Style" will prove to be anything more than a one-hit wonder, but its success so far, especially in the United States, is likely to prompt a review of marketing strategies in the Korean music industry. "It's not going to be a revolution, but more of a baby-steps evolution," said Esther Oh, online news editor at CJ Entertainment, the country's largest media conglomerate. "Psy has shown you can be successful as a human, regular guy with a touch of humour. Other artists and management companies are going to look at that and maybe rethink their own styles and strategies," Oh said.

What Gangnam Style Is About

Gangnam is an affluent neighborhood in Seoul that Psy knows well because he grew up there. Nam You-Sun of AFP wrote: “The Gangnam of the title is Seoul's wealthiest residential and shopping district, lined with luxury boutiques, top-end bars and restaurants frequented by celebrities and well-heeled, designer-clad socialites. The video pokes fun at the district's lifestyle, with Psy breezing through a world of speed boats, yoga classes and exclusive clubs — all the while performing an eccentric horse-riding dance accompanied by beautiful models. [Source: Nam You-Sun, AFP, September 13, 2012]

Deborah Caldwell of CNBC wrote: Gangnam “in southern Seoul includes plenty of fashionistas, decked in luxury labels from head to toe. It's South Korea’s One Percent, if you will. “It’s like the U.S. Upper East Side plus Beverly Hills minus tradition; or I’d rather say it’s more like ‘Dubai’ built on Korean cabbage and Korean pear fields,” writes Jea Kim, the author of the blog My Dear Korea. The video lampoons the Gangnam district's self-importance and wealth. If you watch the video, PSY is playing the part of a Gangnam man, but as a clown, according to Kim. [Source: Deborah Caldwell, CNBC, September 11, 2012]

“Oppan Gangnam style” translates to “I’m Gangnam style.” "Oppan" is a Korean expression used by women to refer to older males. But, Kim points out, PSY refers to himself in the third person; and he keeps saying he lives or loves the Gangnam life. But in reality he’s far from it, which is evident as the video progresses. (One notable example: when he looks like P. Diddy sitting in a chair, it’s actually the toilet he’s sitting on.) “Most Koreans are fed up with all those ‘nouveaux riches’ in Gangnam who became rich because…their real estate values skyrocketed overnight,” Kim writes.

View of Psy and Gangnam Style in Korea

Nam You-Sun of AFP wrote: “The breakout success of "Gangnam Style" has been viewed with a mixture of pride and surprise in Psy's home country, with industry analysts scrabbling to identify the magic ingredient that made it such a phenomenal success abroad. Humour, especially satirical humour, is rare in the mainstream Korean music scene, and that coupled with the 34-year-old's embrace of his anti-pop idol looks has helped set him apart. [Source: Nam You-Sun, AFP, September 13, 2012]

“In South Korea, "Gangnam Style" has won Psy a new fan base by appealing to those for whom the sanitised image of K-pop bears little resemblance to their actual lives. "His somewhat 'normal' appearance makes him feel familiar, and the comic dancing and wacky fashion style give off a friendly image, branding Psy as someone people would want to party with," the daily Munhwa Ilbo commented.

According to Simon Stawski, the Canadian co-founder of the popular "Eat Your Kimchi" blog on K-pop and Korean culture, Psy is the "antithesis of K-pop" and its stable of preening, sexualised, fashion-conscious young stars. "K-pop bands are exceptionally controlled by their management. Psy doesn't buy into that at all, and that's partly why he's such a breath of fresh air," Stawski told AFP. "Above all, Psy doesn't take himself seriously and uses irony and self-deprecation that are absent from K-pop," he said. This, Stawski adds, is what has allowed Psy to jump the English language barrier and find a wider audience for a song which, apart from its title, is almost entirely in Korean.”

Psy himself says he invites laughter, not ridicule. "My motto is to be funny, but not stupid," he said in an interview with the Yonhap news agency. "I want everyone who sees my performance to feel the efforts I've made so far as a singer rather than a lucky guy who got here without anything," he said. A relative veteran after 11 years on the Korean music scene, Psy has always had a small but loyal fan base that has stuck with him through numerous ups and downs, including an early brush with the law for smoking marijuana. His overnight leap from relative obscurity to global sensation came as a personal, if welcome, shock. "It's all so surreal to me," he told Yonhap. "I never thought such a day would come in my life as a singer."

Why Psy Succeeded in America After Others Failed

Krish Venkat of Ananthaa Consulting wrote: Lee Hyori, BoA, Rain, Kim Hyun Joong, Girls Generation and Super Junior, all have been leading the Korean pop scene, and also have a good international presence in Asia. But, they could not break into the American market or reach anywhere near the top of the global chart. Suddenly from nowhere, Psy and his Gangnam Style have captured the world’s attention. On the outset, this might look like a lucky break. But this could be reasoned logically. [Source: Krish Venkat, Ananthaa Consulting, May 20, 2014]

“Many K-pop artists have been going all out to break the American ice and to get to the top of global charts. In this pursuit, they tied up with experts who knew the American market and did everything ‘American’ to achieve this. They converted their songs into English versions, spent lots of money and got featured spots from high profile people. They were singing “American style” songs, thinking that they would be liked. There could have probably been no authenticity in such outputs. They might have been seen as Koreans trying to sing American songs. Whenever a song is merely translated into another language, it seldom carries the original beauty. Thinking in Korean and producing an English output would also have a similar effect.

“Hence, merely getting the English versions of Korean songs could never have been that attractive. On the other hand, Psy did something very different, though unintentional and unplanned. “I didn’t make this for foreign countries,” he had said. “This was always for local fans.” To add to this, Scooter Braun’s strategy to retain the song in Korean after he signed Psy ensured that the song kept progressing up the chart. While creating Gangnam Style, Psy was not under much pressure from any such expectations. He just had fun. He was just himself, Original and authentic. Psy inadvertently set the new trend. Now on, there would be expectations from his millions of global fans - expectations of more such fun, more colors, more of such unique dance steps.

Psy’s Originality

Krish Venkat of Ananthaa Consulting wrote: “It is a combination of his original persona, the Korean culture and the Psy style which has made it original and different for the rest of the world. The style and humour is so novel. Even his appearance has no mask, be it the face or the hair style – he has just been himself. “I honestly can’t think of anyone in the U.S. who’s like Psy”, wrote Jae-Ha Kim, a syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services [Source: Krish Venkat, Ananthaa Consulting, May 20, 2014]

“Everything around Psy and his Gangnam Style carries authenticity due to the originality of the person, the idea and the output. It is not an Americanized Korean product. It is purely a Korean output, liked by the world. "I don't want to come here and act like I'm an American." Psy had told. Psy is naturally humorous and a very interesting personality. He did not have to fake it for the music Video or for any public appearances. The ‘Gangnam Style’ which he is parodying is real. It’s about some real people in Korea who attempt to fake the Gangnam living style. Of course, he has intelligently converted it into an entertaining product. Hence, everything around him is original and authentic.

“Here, we are not even talking about being creative. Creativity involves thinking and brain storming new ideas. We are just talking about individuals adopting their original genuine styles, instead of copying or following an existing trend. Imitating an existing trend has always been a trend by itself.

What was the Unique Selling Proposition – the USP as the marketing professionals call it - of Gangnam Style? What was the differentiator?...The one thing that took it to the top of the chart was clearly the horse dance – riding the imaginary horse! The dance is just a child-like imitation of a horse rider, aesthetically converted into dance steps to the rhythm of the music. The idea of this horse dance was not achieved by narrowing down from a list of auto-generated ideas from digital software” or a marketing meeting. “It was enabled by the simple right-brained creative thinking of a crazy 34 year old kid!”

Gangnam Style Mania

Deborah Caldwell of CNBC wrote: “Yeah, you can admit it. You’ve done the horse-riding dance across your living room. Or at the gym. Or on a dance floor. At the office? OK, maybe just the arm movements. The infectious horse-riding move combines shuffle dancing with the posture of horseback riding, all set to “Gangnam Style”.... And if you’ve heard the song, it's hard to forget its wackiness and catchy lyrics: “Heyyy! Sexy Laaady! Oppan Gangnam style! Gangnam style!”“ [Source: Deborah Caldwell, CNBC, September 11, 2012]

The “has amassed more than 145 million views — but it's much bigger than this. Research released by the video analysis firm Visible Measures shows that with more than 260 related clips — including live performances, spoofs, mashups, and video responses — "Gangnam Style" has amassed 350 million views. Visible Measures calls these 350 million views the video's "true reach." According to Visible Measures, "Gangnam Style" has been averaging more than 16 million views daily during the last week. It's also closing in on 1 million comments. "This rapid growth in viewership can be attributed in part to a variety of celebrity plugs, including on-air mentions by Ellen and Chelsea Lately, as well as tweets from Josh Groban and Robbie Williams, and a cover performance by Nelly Furtado," Visible Measures wrote in a blog post. There's likely to be another surge of Gangnam mania after Friday, which is when he appeared at an outdoor concert on the "Today" Show. That, in turn, caused PSY to become a trending topic on Twitter.

“On September 3, PSY announced he had signed with Scooter Braun’s School Boy Records, which represents Justin Bieber as well as Carly Rae Jepsen of “Call Me Maybe” fame. PSY is now in the middle of a U.S. media tour. Before his "TODAY" show performance, he appeared on the "Ellen" show on Tuesday, where he taught Britney Spears the horse-riding dance. ABC News' "Nightline" featured him, and he appeared on the MTV Video Music Awards.

Gangnam Style First Video to Hit 1 Billion Views on YouTube

In late December 2012, 'Gangnam Style' hit 1 billion views on YouTube. William Gruger, wrote in Billboard: “At some point in the 10 o'clock hour” Eastern Time on December 21 “PSY's mega-hit reached this unprecedented milestone just 27 days after surpassing Justin Bieber's "Baby" as the most watched video on YouTube. The video's YouTube page updated with 1,000,382,639 at 10:50 a.m. A precise time has not been announced. In the days after breaking the 803 million YouTube view record, "Gangnam Style" has sustained over 6.5 million views per day - that's 76.4 view per second. [Source: William Gruger, Billboard, December 21, 2012]

“Unsurprisingly, PSY has gone on to become the platform's top trending YouTube video in 2012. "Gangnam Style" spent 5 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard K-Pop Hot 100, reaching the No. 1 spot before even debuting on the Hot 100. The song is in its 15th week on the U.S.-based Hot 100, with 7 weeks spent in the No. 2 position. For a time "Gangnam Style" was the most listened to song on streaming platforms such as Spotify, Rdio and Mog, holding the No. 1 spot on the On-Demand Songs chart for 5 weeks.

“What exactly does 1 billion views look like from an earnings standpoint? Using conservative estimates across several verticals, we can create a breakdown of "Gangnam Style" approximate earnings. At a reported rate of US$2 for every 1,000 views, Gangnam generates US$2,000,000 from YouTube alone. Factoring in 3.07 million US$1.29 digital single downloads of "Gangnam Style" (according to Nielsen Soundscan), PSY brings in an estimated additional US$3,960,000 from digital downloads and US$50,000 in additional revenues generated from On-Demand streaming services such as Spotify, Rdio and Mog. Excluding additional his puts "Gangnam Style" an estimated US$6.01 million in revenues from this recorded piece of music in just the 5 months the single has been out.

“Undoubtedly, the greatest contributing factor to "Gangnam Style's" success were the fans who created covers and shared the songs with friends, helping the video to go viral. But the song also gained a lift from the exposure it received on radio and television. It garnered 519 million in cumulative audience, according to Nielsen BDS, over its 12-weeks-and-counting run on Hot 100 airplay (Radio Songs chart). It peaked at No. 12 on the ranking the week of Oct. 27.

“"Gangnam Style's" popularity afforded PSY a litany of opportunities to appear on television, both in the U.S. and abroad. He appeared on ABC News, NBC's "Today" show (twice), the MTV Video Music Awards, "Ellen" (twice), "Saturday Night Live," "Chelsea Lately," "Jimmy Kimmel Live!", "The View," the American Music Awards, MTV's "EMAs," as well as a halftime show during a Buffalo Bills-Seattle Seahawks game. These are just his in-person appearances — his music or video has also been featured on "Glee," Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor," CNN, etc; but not his actual self appearing. The rapper's 2012 isn't over, though. Look out for PSY performing on "Christmas In Washington 2012" tonight on TBS and he'll close out the year with an appearance on "New Year's Rockin' Eve." He's also at work on new material for his newly-minted deal with Scooter Braun's Schoolboy Record and Universal Republic.”

In February 2013, Psy appeared in a Super Bowl commercial for pistachios — Wonderful Pistachios from Paramount Farms, world's largest supplier of pistachios and almonds. The company declined to say how much was spent on the ad, but calls it by far the biggest expenditure by the company on a single advertisement. In the ad Psy wears a pistachio-green suit, according to the company, "with his personality and great moves. They will see the same 'Gangnam Style' action that has swept the nation. They will see him opening pistachios the way only he could." [Source: Alan Farnham, ABC News, January 29, 2013]

2 Billion 'Gangnam Style' YouTube Views, Has Made Psy A Very Rich Man

In early June 2014, “Gangnam Style” reached two billion views on YouTube. Hugh McIntyre wrote in Forbes, “Psy is in very rare company with his astronomical view count. Not only is he the singular person to have reached the two billion mark, but he is one of only two people to hit one billion, sharing that honor with Justin Bieber’s “Baby” (for better or worse). While the quirky single had its time on the charts around the globe, it has fallen off the lists and sales have slowed significantly, as is the norm in pop music. While it may not be enjoying the radio and sales attention it once did, the song is still earning Psy (and his record label YG Entertainment) quite a bit of money, and it’s all from that most viral of videos. [Source: Hugh McIntyre, Forbes, June 16, 2014]

“While there is quite a bit of debate about how much the singer really has earned, the New York Times quoted a video ad buying platform named TubeMogul in reaching a figure. Breaking down their figures, it can be surmised that Psy has earned just under US$2 million from YouTube ads, almost all of which come from the “Gangnam Style” clip. While it may seem like how much money a person has made from a certain product would be fairly straightforward, in this case it is actually tricky to figure out. While YouTube has partner programs with many content creators, the deals they have made with all of them are secret, and can vary widely. What is known is that YouTube keeps half of earned ad revenue, with the remainder going to whomever owns the content.

“Making numbers slightly more complicated is the fact that costs for advertisers are not equal, as they shouldn’t be. Ad placement in the “Gangnam Style” video is worth a lot more to a South Korean company like Samsung than it is to Ford. Also, costs for advertising vary around the world, and the value of various international currencies being used here need to be considered. On top of that, YouTube offers two kinds of ads: small banners that pop up during the video, or full video ads that play before the clip. Videos are obviously much more expensive than the other option, and YouTube won’t release information regarding how many of each ads were placed with “Gangam”.

“Interestingly, Psy is making money every day not just from his own video(s), but those of other users from around the world. YouTube has a system for detecting when copyrighted material is being used in a video, and should it be found, the content’s owner has the choice of either taking that video down or getting a share of the advertising revenue. Often record labels will quickly remove copies of new singles, so as to centralize views to the one they have uploaded. Psy chose for others to be able to use his track, and is raking in money from the 40,000 or so parody videos, lyric videos and the like that all use “Gangnam Style”, though calculating how much is a daunting task.

“It should be made clear that US$2 million figure mentioned above is from YouTube advertising alone. When all other revenue streams are taken into account — sales of the track on iTunes, live shows, endorsements, etc. — Psy’s wealth swells to somewhere between US$8 million and US$10 million, with almost all of it being traceable back to the silly horsey dance. Gangnam” continues to add an average of just under three million new views per day, so the singer probably won’t have to worry about the funds drying up for some time to come.

Even North Korea Gets Into 'Gangnam Style'

John Hudson wrote in The Atlantic: “North Korea may be vowing to reduce South Korea to ashes in "three or four minutes," but that doesn't mean it can't pay homage to South Korea's most beloved export, i.e., global pop sensation PSY. In a sign that Gangnam Fever has crossed the 38th parallel, the North has posted a "Gangnam Style" parody video on the official government website Uriminzokkiri designed to mock South Korean presidential candidate Park Geun-hye. No really: Just like everyone else churning out elaborate spoofs of the infectious viral video, the stiff-lipped, draconian regime is getting in on the action. But like all Pyongyang-produced propaganda, it's bizarrely executed. CNN's K.J. Kwon and Jethro Mullen give a good summary of the video: [Source: John Hudson, The Atlantic, Sep 20, 2012 Global

“The North Korean video starts with a picture showing a person apparently in the midst of performing the world famous horse dance from "Gangnam Style." The face stuck on the dancing figure is that of Park Geun-hye, the candidate for the governing Saenuri Party in the upcoming South Korean presidential election. The video goes on to mockingly evoke Park's support for the past actions of her father, Park Jung-hee, South Korea's former dictator whose legacy still divides the nation.

“The video isn't embeddable. Notice that signature horse-dance positioning: Props to Pyongyang for giving it a shot, but they've got a lot of work to do: This certainly wouldn't rank anywhere near Billboard's top ten list of "Gangnam Style" parodies. Take the music: What's with that 1960s big band instrumental soundtrack? It doesn't sound anything like K-pop. And most frames of the video are too dark to even make out the imagery.”

Psy Apologizes for Anti-American Lyrics

In December 2102, while “Gangnam Style” was still going strong, PSY apologized to Americans for participating in concerts protesting the U.S. military presence in South Korea during the early stages of the Iraq war. At a 2004 concert, Associated Press reported, he performed a song with lyrics about killing "Yankees" who have been torturing Iraqi captives and their families "slowly and painfully." In another protest, he smashed a model of a U.S. tank on stage. "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," he wrote in the statement. "I will forever be sorry for any pain I have caused by those words." [Source: Associated Press, December Dec. 7, 2012]

Associated Press reported: “The 34-year-old rapper says the protests were part of a "deeply emotional" reaction to the war and the death of two Korean school girls, who were killed when a U.S. military vehicle hit them as they walked alongside the road. He noted antiwar sentiment was high around the world at the time.” He says “he understands the sacrifices U.S. military members have made to protect South Korea and other nations. He has recently performed in front of servicemen and women.

"And I hope they and all Americans can accept my apology," he wrote. "While it's important that 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 thru music, our universal language we can all come together as a culture of humanity and I hope that you will accept my apology."

“His participation in the protests was no secret in South Korea, where the U.S. has had a large military presence since the Korean War, but was not generally known in America until recent news reports. PSY did not write "Dear American," a song by The N.E.X.T., but he does perform it. The song exhorts the listener to kill the Yankees who are torturing Iraqi captives, their superiors who ordered the torture and their families. At one point he raps: "Kill their daughters, mothers, daughters-in-law, and fathers/Kill them all slowly and painfully."

PSY recently appeared on the American Music Awards, dancing alongside MC Hammer in a melding of memorable dance moves that book-end the last two decades. And the Internet is awash with copycat versions of the song. Even former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson, the 81-year-old co-chairman of President Barack Obama's deficit commission, got in on the fun, recently using the song in a video to urge young Americans to avoid credit card debt. It remains to be seen how PSY's American fans will react. Obama, the father of two pop music fans, wasn't letting the news change his plans, though....The White House confirmed Obama and his family will attend a Dec. 21 charity concert where PSY is among the performers.

Psy Returns to Being Psy as 'Gangnam Style' Runs Its Course

In May 2017, Psy released his eighth full-length album and said he was getting back to his roots, oriented his music towards his fans in South Korea while doing what he loves most - "going crazy" on stage. Christine Kim of Reuters wrote: Psy said he had moved on from on the success of Gangnam Style. "'Gangnam Style' gave me fame while as a creator, some rough times, but I'm not one to linger in the past and make two, three, four versions of (Gangnam Style) because I'm hung up on its fame," Psy told Reuters. "It was probably the biggest trophy the world could have given me. It's now something on the shelf I can admire from time to time." [Source: Christine Kim, Reuters, May 22, 2017]

“His voice hoarse from performing for days on end at universities, Psy, 39, said he had forgotten his roots with the popularity of "Gangnam Style. He currently has more than 10 million subscribers on his official YouTube channel, a record for a non-group individual in Asia. "It was like an addiction," said Psy. "Like when you throw a party, it takes some time for that excitement to die down after it's over. I think it took a while for that exhilaration to subside. Now I'm back to my normal life."

“Then where are Psy's roots? Performing on stage, he said. All his appearances are linked to the latest album, "4x2=8", with singles "I LUV IT" and "New Face" carrying that message. Psy, who made his debut in 2001, wants to stay on stage for as long as he can, but his biggest dream is to retire just before people start telling him he's washed up. "I think the pain from being called that would be far greater than not being able to be on stage," Psy said.

“Psy, who has two children, said he wants to focus more on production and helping younger artists grow. As a singer, Psy said he had achieved all he could ask for — and more. When asked if his "Gangnam Style" fame had deprived him of his privacy, he laughed and said no. "Without my sunglasses and hair gel, I obtain freedom," he said.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons.

Text Sources: South Korean government websites, Korea Tourism Organization, Cultural Heritage Administration, Republic of Korea, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Library of Congress, CIA World Factbook, World Bank, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, “Culture and Customs of Korea” by Donald N. Clark, Chunghee Sarah Soh in “Countries and Their Cultures”, “Columbia Encyclopedia”, Korea Times, Korea Herald, The Hankyoreh, JoongAng Daily, Radio Free Asia, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, BBC, AFP, The Atlantic, The Guardian, Yomiuri Shimbun and various books and other publications.

Updated in July 2021

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