When I first watched the music video “Gangnam Style”, I was embarrassed by this not-so good looking Korean man rapping and dancing.
However, the more I watched it, the more I enjoyed it and appreciated the genuine creativity that went into the song, the choreography, and the music video.
However, there was more than that which intrigued me enough to continue watching.
It was the huge extent to which the North American audience embraces his music and video. I am amazed and find myself searching for an answer.
Celebrities like Britney Spears are tweeting about the song, Simon Cowell says Psy is brilliant and Psy even made an appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show.
In my own lifetime, Korea and its culture has come from obscurity to become a national phenomenon.
My family immigrated to Canada in 1975.
At that time, people only knew it as a place where a war was fought before we and “the commies” settled down to the grim poker game of the Cold War. They had no idea where Korea was or who Koreans were. Kids at school asked me, what are you? I would reply, “Korean”. They said that Korean wasn’t even a real word and I was making it all up.
Now by 2012, Korea has emerged on the world stage. People all over the world use Samsung phones, computers and other household items. People all over the world drive Hyundai cars and Kia cars advertised with Hamsters dancing to hip-hop music. People all over the world are eating Korean food and enjoying kimchi. They are watching Korean dramas and movies and listening to Korean music. This is a dramatic change in 35 years, matching the equally dramatic changes in neighboring China in the same time. The difference is that 35 years ago, everyone knew about China.
When I travelled to Myanmar this past January, something strange happened to me. Everywhere I went people thought I was a Korean actress. I preached at a church, I lectured at a seminary, I taught a class, I spoke at a theological professors’ gathering….and everywhere I went, the Burmese people introduced me as a Korean actress. I enjoyed the attention.
Of course they knew I wasn’t a Korean actress, but that is the image from Korea with whom the people in the audience associated. They did not introduce me as a Korean actress because I am attractive or anything like that. It had nothing to do with my appearance or my ability to act. It was just the mere fact that I am Korean and the Burmese love Korean actors/actresses. So they were able to identify with me using what they already knew about Korea.
People in Myanmar watch Korean drama daily, and go to Korean movies at the theatre. They also listen to Korean music. The Korean entertainment business is infiltrating Asia.
Noticing the impact of Korea in Asia, I became proud to be born a Korean.
Now with Korean music coming into the mainstream U.S. media, I have never been so excited to be a Korean. So here is a shout out to my motherland. Yay Korea!
here is my second “Gangnam Style” posting for EthicsDaily.com
Grace Ji-Sun Kim is Associate Professor of Doctrinal Theology and the Director of the MATS program at Moravian Theological Seminary in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. She is the author of The Holy Spirit, Chi, and the Other: A Model of Global and Intercultural Pneumatology (Palgrave Macmillan) and The Grace of Sophia: A Korean North American Women’s Christology (Pilgrim Press).