Oops. I've been in South Korea this time around since 2002, when I was busy taking pictures of the anti-American protests and actually stopped taking the subway because the harassment of foreigners became so bad around that time. I was also treated to the lovely song stylings of "Fucking USA", a song that was commonly performed at protests at the time. Actually, I have a bit of schadenfreude for Psy on this one, as representative of the unacceptable orgy of hatred that took place at the time As superficial as it was, admittedly, it's still important to talk about this issue, since I feel that the nation kind of got away with this unacceptable pattern of behavior that it has actually never come to terms with.
At the time, I was made to feel like some right wing reactionary or apologist for American Empire, sometimes even by my lefty colleagues, for being uncomfortable with or angry that many otherwise educated and intelligent young people in South Korea felt okay to say stupid things such as expressing a desire to see American soldiers die, or many other hurtful things. And the truth of the matter is that side was an idea leader, one of the people who was more responsible than others for spreading these hateful ideas. Frankly, I felt that anyone who was an adult or had half a brain should not have been spreading such hateful ideas about any group, even if it was politically correct or acceptable at the time. Which is why I think that side should be held accountable for everything that he said as an entertainer and performer at the time. Now, I can forgive people for having said things or done things and moments of youthful indiscretion who then grew up and out of that mode of thinking when they became famous later, but frankly, even if only on a moral level, Psy should have known better. He was already a famous entertainer and public figure who was busy spreading hatred. And the onus of responsibility For not acting a fool is greater when you command the attention and good graces of millions of people. Which is what makes his act completely immoral and irresponsible. And now, since he is much more famous than he was before and has been given millions of more international fans, I feel it is perfectly reasonable for these fans to hold him accountable for every aspect of his personality as a performer and public figure, even if that was before they came to know him.
For South Korea, this could be an object lesson in the importance of fostering an international and global mindset, because long gone are the days when Koreans could act ignorant towards and say stupid things about foreigners and other Others without fear of other ramifications. Some might cry foul here by saying that it's unfair to dig into Psy's past and hold him accountable for ideas that pretty much everyone had in South Korea at the time. But that's precisely why he should be held accountable. Even if he was only following the fashion, he is emblematic of a nation that came to exist and prosper because it was in the good graces of the United States, whatever one wants to think about the history or the interpret why United States has been interested in concretely and materially assisting South Korea. That's the whole tricky thing to South Korean anti-Americanism, isn't it? Much more then anyone is pointing out, his anti-Americanism is very "Gangnam Style." The nation prospers and gets rich, then suddenly forgets about the circumstances and sacrifices it took to get there. Or who created the material circumstances of that success. This is not to say that the US protection of South Korea should engender love and affection for the US on the part of South Koreans, but rather at least a realistic knowledge of the circumstances in which their nation exists.
Do I think Americans should take his recent apology seriously? No. Not in the American sense of the idea. People should realize that the Korean apology, as it functions in South Korea, is very much a superficial protection of "face" after having violated a social norm or rule of social relationships. It is very "regretful" to have been caught, but it is also not an expression of actual sorrow nor is it a sign of meaningful introspection, but merely something that is expected after being caught doing something considered to be negative given one's social role, an apology given quickly and easily. And in this case, after having been thrust, much to his own surprise, into the international spotlight and gaining millions of American fans, Psy's hand has been caught in the proverbial cookie jar, and he has to apologize in order to save face, but also save the prospects of continued popularity and financial gain. Suddenly, both Psy and South Korea are no longer ignored, and are finally getting what they have always wanted: attention and recognition from the west. Now, it's time to own up to the fact that South Korea doesn't have many positive views of people who come from that place, and has a lot of shit to deal with in terms of how it thinks about and treats outsiders and deals with the sticky issue of its own history and how it came to be.