PSY in a cutoff vest with a glitter star

Unless you've been living under a rock or in North Korea lately, you've probably heard "Gangnam Style" by Korean pop artist PSY. While you may think the video is hilarious (and it is), so much of the stuff in it is true about Korea. Women do sexy yoga in the park. Gangsters and fat guys sit in the sauna. Weird white guys bust moves. People break out dancing like in the old Michael Jackson "Thriller" video. Kids go wild. Korea boasts more screaming than anywhere else I've ever been.

While this is a fun and funny song to see and hear, I think the cultural ramifications are also fascinating to see and hear.

My elementary students sing the song until I walk in, then wait to ask me, "Is it okay if we say ‘Sexy Lady'?" Before PSY, most non-Koreans thought KPOP (Korean Pop Music, not to be confused with JPOP—Japanese Pop Music) was just boy bands with ridiculous clothes and weird hair, or girl bands with really short skirts, high heels, and weird hair. And for the most part, that's about all there is to KPOP, except for PSY. He's a pretty talented musician, but a genius at promotion, making cool videos, and whoring himself out.

I've seen no less than four different advertisements using "Gangnam Style." He sells everything from cell phones (hand phones if you're a true ROK denizen), to hangover cures, to cars. In the early days, I tried to count how many times I'd hear the song playing from shops, bars, or people's headphones, but I lost count.

You hear people singing the song constantly. The other day a kid in a baby carriage blurted, "Heeeeeey, sexy lady!"

In fact, when the song first came out, my elementary age students would sing the song until I walked in, then wait to ask me, "Is it okay if we say ‘Sexy Lady'?" Of course, since I'm the coolest teacher ever, I punched them. Nah, just kidding, I let them sing and dance to their favorite song.

PSY is actually responsible for the most shocking turnabout in Korea. For the most part, being fat marks you as lazy and shameful in this country, but now that the biggest celebrity in the world is a chubby Korean dude, the self-esteem of pudgy boys has gone through the roof.

My number one student, Brian, has always been pretty outgoing, but has felt hamstrung by his weight. But look at him now!! (Don't listen, the sound sucks.)

Does this look like a kid who feels self-conscious? Nope, his lease on confidence will last much longer.

So what do I predict with all of this? I think "Gangnam Style" could be the tipping point (thanks, Malcolm Gladwell) to put Korea on top of the world. All these people need to do is just quit exporting their corny stuff like matching couple outfits, wearing Crocs in public (or ever), copying other electronics companies (I'm looking at you, Samsung—Apple knows what you're up to), and start doing their own things as creatively as possible.

Then, I think Korea will be poised to take over the world. But until then, "KC is Gangnam Style!"

Casey Freeman with a cute Korean girl in pink

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