Sunday, December 9, 2012

"Does South Korean Rapper PSY Hate America?"

So far I have avoided writing about Psy's supposed anti-Americanism (see here, hereherehere, and especially here, where Bobby McGill may see it as his ticket out of this one-horseriding dance town). It's not because of a lack of interest, but simply because of a lack of time (this is finals week and I am in Hawaii because I am a graduate student).

I provide this news link I found at a conservative website, however, because it probably better represents how Psy's supposed anti-Americanism from eight to ten years ago is being presented to an American public that is not so familiar with the South Korean attitudes toward the US military, or global attitudes toward the American military in general.

It is slightly misleading in how it present the facts, saying the "fu¢k Americans" song is Psy's own work even though he didn't write it, and it fails to mention the deaths of the two middle school girls that prompted the orgy of anti-USFK sentiment that erupted in 2002.

Is Psy swinging at
an imaginary American?
The way a lot of people in the K-blogosphere have been writing about these revelations, they seem to think that as soon as people learn about Psy's angry activities from 2002 and 2004, everyone in America will turn on Psy and his career will be over. Others have suggested that he deserves to have his career in America finished, but that many Americans simply won't pay attention or won't care.

My own take was a little bit different from this. I think that when people read about what he was responding to (i.e., the death of those two middle school girls and the beheading of a South Korean working for the US military in Iraq), his actions would be somewhat forgiven, particularly if he was adept at explaining and apologizing for his behavior. So it's notable that the article I linked, which I'm guessing may be typical, removes some of that context that mitigates Psy's actions.

But the apology issued by Psy is almost exactly the kind of apology he should have issued about his actions from a decade ago: Admit it, explain it a bit, condemn it, apologize for it, and move on.

Now don't get me wrong, I think that the lyrics of that song are absolutely deplorable...
“싸이 rap: 이라크 포로를 고문해 댄 씨발양년놈들과
PSY rap: The Motherf–king Western B-tch Bastards who tortured the Iraqi prisoners and
고문 하라고 시킨 개 씨발 양년놈들에
The dog-f-cker western b-tch bastards who ordered the torture
딸래미 애미 며느리 애비 코쟁이 모두 죽여
Their daughters, mothers, daughters in law, and fathers, the white n-ggers (Big noser=white n-gger) kill them all.
아주 천천히 죽여 고통스럽게 죽여”
Kill them very slowly. Kill them painfully.
Goading or boasting about killing innocent family members of US military personnel is inexcusable, even in a song (even if only directed at the family members of US military personnel who have killed or tortured). When I thought he himself had written those lyrics, I was really quite angry. That crosses a line that shouldn't be crossed (kinda like when Tea Partiers call for Obama to be killed). However, when I read that he was simply singing a song written for and performed by another band, I was slightly less angry about it. Slightly.

But it was a long time ago, and people do change. Still, we have to answer for our actions even if they were eight or 10 years ago (the problems faced by pop star 2PM come to mind). I think Psy has responded reasonably for his inappropriate behavior at what was a very emotional and angry time for a lot of South Koreans, for good reasons.

What I think is also interesting is the way that many people in the K-blogosphere seem to be acting themselves in light of Psy's past behavior. Some are downright gleeful that Psy is finally going to be taken down, as if he is some evil entity that deserves to be destroyed. Indeed, Psy may seem to have been a bit too lucky in his outrageous fortune, and for them these decade-old revelations are not the cause of his comeuppance, but the means.

Many commenter in the K-blogosphere, on the other hand, remember all too well how they themselves bore the brunt of the anti-Americanism that erupted in 2002 as so many Koreans were so incensed at the US military over the deaths of those two schoolgirls, and that regularly spilled over on many people who happened to like they might be an American. (I myself was not immune to this: I was the target of a mini campaign to remove me from my job when I said on a radio news program that the wrong USFK personnel were being prosecuted and, were they to be found guilty in a US military court, their punishment could be considerably harsher than if they were found guilty in a civilian Korean court.)

That Psy was part of this movement that led to so many foreigners getting dirty looks, angry taunts, and even threats of physical violence or physical violence itself, makes Psy's actions unforgivable to them, even a decade later. Taking him down is just desserts for what he and others did. And if they can stop the K-pop movement in its tracks, all the better.

And while I also understand that sentiment (the Caucasian girl I was seeing at the time was downright frightened to take the subway), the general reaction to the two middle school girls deaths is also a disappointing head scratcher. The general idea in the K-blogosphere is that those girls brought death on themselves for walking how they were walking and where they were walking, as if they had some real control over what was going on.

My read on the incident is quite different. The unit that ran over them was operating with very little sleep on a narrow road with broken radio communication equipment. When another line of tanks had to pass them, one of the tanks lurched to the right and up the shoulder where those girls had already gone. This was an accident waiting to happen, but the people least responsible for the incident were the two girls themselves. Yet, over and over and over again, you can read commenters and bloggers talking as if the girls themselves were responsible for dying, some even calling them stupid and idiotic or deserving to die.

And that sentiment — that USFK is not really to blame despite the clusterfu¢k of mistakes that they had made prior to the accident — is inextricably tied up in the cheering for Psy's possible demise. In the end, Psy is being blamed for much more than he is actually responsible for, and that means that forgiveness is far less likely from that crowd.

Many of those people have loathed the idea that K-pop was popular at all, especially some goofy song like "Gangnam Style" that even I mocked from time to time. But the real test will come: whether or not the American public will pay attention to this, and whether or not they will be forgiving.

It is by no means a slamdunk case. A lot of Americans themselves were angry about the Iraq War at the time, and later about all the brutal deaths and the torture at Abu Ghraib, and a lot of them might now read about what happened to the two middle school girls and even what happened with the beheaded Korean missionary, and consequently they may be a lot more understanding of Psy than the K-pop haters would like to admit it's possible. Frankly, if the American right-wingers really do run with this, it might push people in the middle and on the left in the opposite direction.

And thus, in the end, it might all be a wash. This revelations of Psy's past might have little to do with whatever trajectory he was going to otherwise take, whether it was becoming a one-hit wonder in the United States or starting a career that might actually take him somewhere, even if not very far.



  1. "But the apology issued by Psy is exactly the kind of apology he should have issued about his actions from a decade ago: Admit it, explain it a bit, condemn it, and move on."

    Do you have a link to a video of him reading his apology in either Korean or English? Until, I see him, and hear him, actually mouthing the apology, I can't help but think this way too polished and is straight from the printer of his publicist trying to salvage as much future revenue as they can.

    1. No, I don't have a link and I'm not sure if such a thing exists. I have only read about it.

  2. Nice article and thank your valuable information and I wish you luck

  3. There must be something human about using individuals as stand-ins for complicated issues about policies, like stationing troops on foreign soil. It's so easy just to frame this as PSY's cross to bear, and force people to forgive PSY or not, and not consider the policies that allow him, ironically, to have a ready-made media market that can't even understand his lyrics, or quite possibly even take his video straight but as some sort of nostalgia trip or ironic snark. I'm certain, though, that if "Gangnam Style" had not gone viral, the original post at AllKpop would never have gotten play in higher profile blogs and now major corporate media. This is now another example of how the media likes to stoke controversy for its own revenues by framing complicated issues like a family argument.

  4. Care to back up this implication Tea Party members are inclined to want Obama to die?

    1. First of all, when I said "kinda like when Tea Partiers call for Obama to be killed," I did not mean that Tea Party members in general are "inclined to want Obama to die." It is a smaller subset that states publicly a desire to kill the president or for the president to be killed or otherwise die. I have no knowledge one way or the other among those who do not state such things publicly.

      So my contention is that some Tea Partiers call for Obama to be killed. And as much as I'd like to show you the evidence right this instant, it will have to wait until after final exams are over later this week.

      Suffice it to say for now that I subscribe to several right-wing, Tea Party-oriented sites that put out propaganda, in order for me to gauge what is swirling around that portion of the political spectrum, and I've read such things so many times in the comments section it is no longer remarkable. I'd have to go back and look for a few links to put up here, but that would take more time than I have at the moment.

      Be patient, and press me on it if I don't respond eventually.


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