The UK Daily Mail has a photo of President Obama warmly welcoming South Korean rapper PSY to a White House charity event on Sunday:
PSY, whose real name is Park Jae-sang, is currently a worldwide sensation due to a song called “Gangnam Style,” whose video and stage performances include a delightfully silly dance that has become the latter-day version of the macarena. As with the macarena, the song is so catchy that even audiences who can’t understand the words love it. If you do understand the words, or watch the music video carefully, the song can be interpreted as mockery of the idle, fashionable rich, Gangnam being an upscale district in South Korea. Actually, it’s more properly taken as a parody of poseurs who pretend to be from the Gangnam district, but that might be a difficult cultural nuance for international audiences to pick up on. The signature dance move associated with “Gangnam Style” mimics a snooty rich person riding a horse. Anyone who remembers the political attacks on Ann Romney’s equestrian activities should get the gist of it.
I have Korean friends who are fascinated by the spectacle of Americans chanting the refrain to the song, “Oppa Gangnam style,” without having a clue about the layers of cultural significance surrounding the term “oppa.” (It bascially means “big brother,” but there’s a lot more to it than its literal translation.) They’re trying to decide if they’re delighted to see all their American friends singing in Korean, or disappointed that nobody asks them to explain what the lyrics actually mean.
But none of that has anything to do with why PSY is a controversial figure. For that, we must set the Wayback Machine to the early 2000s, when his act included some rather… trenchant critcism of American troops, both those stationed in South Korea, and serving in Iraq.
The Korean pop-culture attitude toward their American protectors is not always unalloyed gratitude. Two incidents in particular prompted a musical response from PSY. The first was an American driver winning acquittal in court after running over two teenage Korean girls with a military vehicle. This led to PSY smashing a toy tank during one of his stage performances.
The second incident was the beheading of a Korean missionary in Iraq in 2004. The missionary was taken hostage by Islamist terrorists who demanded South Korea refrain from sending troops to assist American efforts in Iraq. The South Korean government said it would not negotiate with terrorists, so the hostage was murdered. Some South Koreans blamed the American military for creating the circumstances that led to the missionary’s death. PSY took the stage to deliver the following rap lyrics:
Kill those f**ing 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
Not much cultural nuance there. Calling for the murder of American soldiers’ extended families, slowly and painfully, doesn’t leave much room for doubt. Also, for those of you too young to remember the mid-2000s, the Left thought President Bush and top Administration officials were the people PSY referred to when he sang about brutalizing those “who ordered them to torture.” It might be hard to imagine after watching the press grant Barack Obama infinite credit for discretion and distance when things go wrong with his overseas operations, notably in the case of Benghazi – Obama “knows nothing, sees nothing, hears nothing,” like Sgt. Schultz from Hogan’s Heroes – but George Bush was held personally responsible for every bit of bad news from 2001 to 2008. (For that matter, he’s still being held responsible for all bad news from 2009 to 2012.)
It’s interesting that none of this came to light until the White House invited PSY to perform at its charity event. The singer has been all over American entertainment shows for months, but they studiously avoided mentioning his anti-American past… even though three of the four groups of relatives he wanted killed through slow torture were female: “daughters, mothers, daughters-in-law.” War on Women, anyone?
As petitions calling for PSY’s dis-invitation from the White House charity event gained strength, the singer finally decided it was time to apologize for his vile lyrics:
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 I featured on 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 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 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.
When media darlings issue these highly nuanced apologies, it would be nice if they indicated exactly which “inflammatory and inappropriate” words they regret. Notice that PSY’s apology only directly referred to the incident that led to him smashing up a toy tank.
The big problem with all that lamebrained “antiwar sentiment” sweeping the world in the last decade is that somehow they never got around to wishing death and pain on the people who were actually doing the beheading. “We were all pretty worked up at the time” is a rather weak excuse for demanding the torture and murder of entire families in front of a huge audience… especially when the actual enemy in theaters in Iraq and Afghanistan is partial to exactly that sort of language. Hey, PSY, do you want to hang out Gangnam-style with some guys who really do torture and murder the daughters-in-law of their enemies? Any American soldier in Iraq or Afghanistan can tell you where to find them.
Also, where’s all that high-minded “antiwar sentiment” now that Barack Obama is launching unilateral military actions and blowing people away with drone strikes? It’s funny how quickly that all dried up and blew away, isn’t it?
But apprently PSY’s apology has been accepted by the President and our media opinion makers, because he performed at the White House charity event, and one gets the impression the American entertainment media considers the matter closed. Successful pop stars are often granted a generous helping of amnesia, provided they don’t practice any objectionable right-wing politics. And this particular President never has been, and never will be, held accountable for bestowing the White House seal of approval upon controversial entertainers. Note to all of his potential Republican successors: do not, for one instant, think that you will be able to get away with something like this. If you invite someone who used to rap about torturing and killing women to the White House, you will never hear the end of it.