South Korean rhapsody: 'fat man with two kids' storms pop world
HE’S AN unlikely pop star – a tubby 34-year-old rapper with slicked-back hair and a dodgy suit singing a song in Korean about an upmarket section of the capital Seoul.
But Psy’s Gangnam Style video has been watched nearly 400 million times on YouTube and has just knocked Irish band The Script off the No 1 spot in the British charts. The almost absurdly catchy song is No 2 in the Irish charts and in the US Billboard charts.
There was near hysteria when the opening notes of Gangnam Style rang out at an industry event at the Busan Film Festival, where he wowed the audience with a sweat-drenched, emotional performance.
More than 80,000 people turned up to see him play a free concert in Seoul last week.
“I did not get here because I was worthy of it. I’m here because of all of you. I’m just a fat man with two kids,” he told the crowd.
“It’s a golden opportunity to show the world how well we Koreans play.”
Korean pop, or K-Pop, has been on the cusp of an international breakthrough for a number of years but no one expected the most successful proponent of Korean music to be Psy.
The song is an affectionate satire about the Gangnam district in Seoul, the capital’s most affluent area. Since it was released in July, Psy seems to be everywhere. He showed up on Ellen DeGeneres’s TV show to teach Britney Spears how to do his trademark horsey dance.
One young passerby at the Busan event immediately started doing the dance when asked what he thought of Psy. “It’s good for Korea’s image, everyone likes it,” he said, dancing happily.
Psy, whose real name is Park Jae-sang, has been around for many years. His stage name stems from the first three letters of the word psycho. Psy wrote the song as a way of dealing with the stress of modern day life.
“These days people seem so stressed so I just want to make fun by music. But I didn’t expect anything overseas, honestly. As an artist and an entertainer and a writer, I think that was my job. Anti-stress,” he said in an interview with Time magazine.
He is not an uncontroversial figure in Korea. He was in trouble for smoking marijuana after his breakthrough in 2001. Five years ago, he was made do a second stint of military service after it was discovered he had kept performing during his first period of service.