After years of South Koreans asking me, “Are you American?” and then acting all relieved or happy when I tell them, no, I’m Canadian, I can’t help but be amused at the newest news report on Psy. Apparently some journalists in America have realized that he’s expressed raging bigotry in
his songs performances in the past, to the tune of:
이라크 포로를 고문해 댄 씨발양년놈들과
고문 하라고 시킨 개 씨발 양년놈들에
딸래미 애미 며느리 애비 코쟁이 모두 죽여
아주 천천히 죽여 고통스럽게 죽여
Here’s a more representative translation of those lyrics, by the way:
Kill those fucking Yankees who have been torturing Iraqi captives
Kill those fucking Yankees who ordered them to torture
Kill all their their big-nosed daughters, mothers, daughters-in-law, and fathers
Kill them all very slowly and painfully
It’s someone else’s song, sure, but he performed it. The three words I’ve added to the translation I’ve seen all over the net matter: all, for its extremism; big-nosed, which is a Korean racial slur for white people–like Yankee, it’s a slur on the order of kike, kraut, or polack, I’ll note, because “big-nose” doesn’t seem at face value to be a particularly offensive word to most Americans; and very, for its sadism.
Of course, Psy was simply pandering to his audience, like so many in the entertainment business. There’s context, of course. And it’s that context that I wish Americans would realize. Hating on America is not just acceptable in South Korea: it’s acceptable in the mainstream, it’s not considered rude, it’s in fact an easily-distinguished component of South Korean entertainment.
(And that’s in a society where any negative criticism from an outsider turns a lot of people outright histrionic.)
Paradoxically, some South Korean entertainers are at once complacent to cash in on the hate and outrage the public feels for America, and yet also feel a fervent, obsessive desire to make it big in the American entertainment business. They want their cake and they want to eat it too. And they think you’re too dumb or ignorant to catch on, even.
That’s the paradox of the Korean entertainment business: many entertainers realize it can be profitable to exploit the widespread anti-Americanism in Korean audiences, but meanwhile they’re obsessed with making it big in America. Little do they realize this kind of thing can come back to bite them in the arse. That, you see, would involve long-term thinking, which in my experience is even less common a skill in Korea than in North America.
For what it’s worth, I’m amused, in a sort of darkly hopeful way. I’d love for the American media to ask Psy a few uncomfortable questions:
- Do you still feel that the Yangju Highway Incident was a killing with malicious intent by the driver? Or do you feel that South Koreans overreacted to the incident, and that a trial by court martial, as according to the SOFA, was the best choice?
- Do you think America has been a good ally to South Korea, or not?
- We sympathize with you in your refusal to render compulsory military service in the South Korean army. Do you think other young men should be free of this ridiculous, onerous, destructive burden, or only rich kids like you?
In other words, I’d love it if they asked him questions that would force him to choose between offending his new American audience, or pissing off all the nationalists whose rage he cashed in on, back in South Korea.
Because frankly, even normal, sensible responses in an American media context would probably be enough to render him persona non grata in the Korean media. (Sort of like how American politicians are not allowed to speak common sense on a number of issues to the media–Republicans can’t speak sensibly on evolution and climate change, and Democrats can’t talk sanely about, for example, marijuana or atheism.)
Maybe Psy could construct answers that would appease both sides… but maybe not, especially if the questions were carefully constructed. And I’d pay money to watch that. Not because I think that someone who does something once, a long time ago, deserves to be punished forever about it, of course.
It’s just that watching him squirm his way through answering questions in that kind of interview? Now that’s what I’d call entertainment.
(Not that it’s likely to happen. It seems Fox News and the right-wing side of the media is leading the charge. That is just going to discredit any discussion at all. Too bad, it could have been really fun to watch.)