When will the Gangnam Style madness stop?

Gangnam Style leads to gang shootout in Thailand (HT to reader):

The dance has inspired a host of parodies, the song has hit the top of the charts in South Korea, Malaysia, Finland and Latvia, and the YouTube video has accumulated more than 227m views. Now, according to Thai media, Gangnam Style, by the K-pop star Psy, has inspired a West Side Story-esque show of rivalry between two Bangkok gangs who are said to have had a dance-off before engaging in a gun battle.

The INN website reported that the two gangs were dining in the same restaurant when “the younger members of both groups danced provocatively at each other in the manner of top hit Gangnam Style”. The dance-off escalated into an argument and, eventually, a gun attack in the upmarket Ekkamai neighbourhood, in which one of the gangs fired at least 50 bullets from a carbine and an 11mm gun.

And in El Monte, California, a group of lifeguards were canned after posting this parody video of Gangnam Style:

Several speakers suggested the city had missed a golden opportunity for a town of 115,000 residents and should have capitalized on the attention the video has drawn. The video has been watched more than 1.5 million times on YouTube.

But Mayor Andre Quintero said the video spoof of “Gangnam Style” by Korean musician Psy had been hurtful to the city. “Our brand as a city has taken a big hit,” he said.

The guard-made video—“Lifeguard Style”—quickly went viral after the lifeguards and their supervisor were fired for unauthorized filming on city premises and appearing in the video in the city’s fire-engine-red swimsuits.

I’ll let you process that.

In the UK, Gangnam Style almost hit No. 1 in the singles’ chart. It placed a very respectable No. 3.

Forbes, incidentally, ran a very good piece (IMHO) on what makes Gangnam Style so damned popular. This might grab your attention:

That PSY is from South Korea is a viral benefit, as well. As we have seen from many of the big recent pop hits, having a local fan base abroad (Adele in the UK, Gotye in Australia and Jepsen in Canada) is a social media magnet when a song or video hits here. That Korean Pop (or K-Pop) is huge in Asia but almost unknown in the US outside of Asian communities means that there is more where PSY came from, as well. PSY s only #4 on the Billboard K-Pop chart, but he is the only K-Pop artist on the mainstream charts (like, ever): #11 on the Hot 100, #28 on Pop Songs, #68 on Radio Songs, #4 on Digital Songs and #43 on On-Demand Songs.

Finally, if this doesn’t make you mourn the death of Western civilization, I don’t know what will.

  • cubuff70

    The El Monte city council is having an investigation done on the matter. I find it laughable that they think the video put their city’s image in a bad light. If anything did, it was their stupid reaction to it. Hell, even Psy is on record as asking the mayor to give them their jobs back!

  • http://www.chinasmack.com/tag/funny/page/3 Jakgani

    I was just thinking about this yesterday.

    I have been thinking – that ONE of the reasons the song is so popular in other countries – and is being played on the USA media, Canada media, Australia media, and other countries media – is because of the title and the “words-said-most-in-the-song” GANG nam style.

    the way I saw Americans pronouncing it on the news last week – was exactly that – GANG nam style.

    Many young gangsters and punks in other countries (including Thailand) think the song is about having a GANG or being a Gangster – or the Style of their Gang.

    I expect so see more gangs fight over this song – before it all ends.

    and it may not end that fast anyway – as at the end of the movie-clip (officially released by Psy on YouTube) – it does say “Part one” – which leads people to believe there will be a Part two.

    We all know what Gangnam is and what the song is about – but others in other countries with the wrong pronunciation – many don’t have a clue.

  • Yu Bum Suk

    “But Mayor Andre Quintero said the video spoof of “Gangnam Style” by Korean musician Psy had been hurtful to the city. “Our brand as a city has taken a big hit,” he said.”

    It’s doing nothing whatsoever to harm the city but the reaction’s sure making the city officials look like a bunch of humourless assholes.

  • yuna

    Everybody, please tell everybody you meet it should be read “Kangnam style” as we all know.
    From: a broken record.

  • babotaengi

    Should be “Gahngnahm”, if you care that much about it being pronounced accurately. My wife’s always referred to as “Ms. Kang” back home. She doesn’t like it when I add “…garoo

  • yuna

    If it comes at the beginning of the word, it’s close to k (soft K) than a g(soft).

  • yuna

    a good example : Kagawa Shinji
    In Korean is rightly romanized as 가가와
    That’s because naturally at the beginning of that word the same kieuk 기억 is a soft k. If that is wrongly romanized following the English way then it would be 카가와, however that is a harsh accented k at the beginning with raising of the tone.
    Therefore your wife’s name Kang is right. Ghangnahm is 깡나암.

  • babotaengi

    I think your romanization is ass backwards, darl’. It is not meant for the benefit of Korean speakers.

  • bumfromkorea


    You should add “…and Kodos” next time.

  • cm

    Psy is totally sellable because he’s got a great sense of humor, he’s funny, and his English and ability to speak the slang, are all pretty good.

  • PineForest

    Saw the lifeguard vid…totally harmless. But gangsta rap glorifying crime , absurd levels of cruelty and greed…and abuse of women is ok.. gotta love Amerika.

  • yuna

    It is not meant for the benefit of Korean speakers.

    Precisely my point, hon.
    The current one is for the benefit of Korean speakers and the old correct MR one is the easy way for non-Korean speakers to pronounce the beautiful language as close to the native spearkers.

    The McCune–Reischauer system is friendly to Westerners.[citation needed] For example, Korean has phonologically no distinction between voiced and voiceless consonants, but it phonetically distinguishes them

  • yuna

    It hurts my ears so much to see the language butchered like that, like when I hear something out of tune, when it was much better, just for the convenience sake. It wouldn’t have been that hard to add the extra rule.
    Even with the current system, Korean cannot be 1-to-1 transliterate ANYWAY because of the patchims.

  • slim

    I recall hearing about a decade ago that the new romanization system was introduced by a committee dominated by nationalistic linguists who mainly wanted a “made in Korea” system to replace the old foreigner-created McCune-Reishauer one.

  • iMe

    “Gangnam Style leads to gang shootout in Thailand”

    I wanna see this turned into a movie.

  • Q

    On the other way around, 비너스 패션 in the so unnationalistic McCune-Reishauer romanization system could be transliterated to ‘peanuts passion’ or ‘p*nis passion’. It would suit to the purpose how to pronounce beautiful Korean engrish more friendly to foreigners ears.

  • Bendrix


    They did it just to be nationalistic and have a homegrown Romanization system? Source?

  • slim

    If I had a source I would have included it @14. I heard that from critics of the new system, including foreign entities that took flack from Korean officialdom for refusing to adopt it. Basically that it was driven by nativist sentiment, not that that was the goal. Frankly I don’t know the story, but always wondered why Korea adopted a less-accurate system that makes it even harder for outsiders to correctly pronounce terms.

  • redwhitedude

    Psy has a long way to go to prove that he is just a passing fad. One thing going for him is that he is not manufactured as other acts once people begin seriously looking into the Kpop.

  • http://pawikoreapics.blogspot.com/ pawikirogii 石鵝

    people already looking into kpop guy. always gotta have a jerk tryng to take a shit on korea. creep.

  • Q

    Psy just came back from the US and had a scheduled performance at ‘Kyonggi University’ (MR romanization again!):


  • cm

    It will be interesting to see if he will be an one hit wonder. It will be very tough to keep the momentum going with foreign language songs. He’ll have to come up with brand new English songs (his own English songs written by himself, not the Korean songs translated into English) to keep him interesting. Otherwise it’s a good chance he’ll disappear after this fad is over. His fame may die out, but I think his song will live on though.

  • http://koreanlanguagenotes.blogspot.com/ gbevers

    The El Monte mayor is a goofball jerk. The video was completely harmless and done in good taste. My only concern is that the video showed that some of those lifeguards need to spend more time at the pool swimming laps.

  • bumfromkorea

    I honestly can’t see him being more than an one hit wonder. I would be astonished if he has a successful followup to Gangnam Style fad, but who knows? Considering the state of the American pop culture, Psy is practically Gershwin by comparison.

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    This Atlantic article on Gangnam Style is just okay, but I like this quote:

    “Thus “Gangnam Style” signals the emergence of irony in South Korea, meaning that the country has reached the final stage in any state’s evolution. If you don’t think that irony is a measure of eliteness, think of how annoyed you were the last time you were accused of not having any. Americans have told me that Asians have no irony; in Europe, where I last lived, I was told that Americans have none.”


  • DLBarch

    I don’t know Psy’s oeuvre from Adam, and have no real opinion about his latest hit, but I do have a feminist kyopo friend (a rarity, to be sure!) who absolutely insists that the man’s discography is laced with unapologetically misogynistic lyrics.

    I know nothing about this myself, but after weeks of reading about Psy on the admittedly male-dominated MH, I haven’t seen anyone comment on this.

    Any takers?


  • yuna

    Misogynistic? I don’t think so. It is very self-mocking and when I first heard about the popularity outside of Korea, I was surprised because to me, the full humour and nuance (which not so easy to translate, I have seen one or two translated versions it did not do justice at all) of the lyrics makes up for about 90 percent of the reason I liked the song.

  • yuna

    Here’s one such translated version.
    You can see how even with the right a 아 pronunciation, the G is really NOT how Koreans pronounce 강남, except when they try to read the new romanized names themselves, I have seen this happen a lot amongst dumb Koreans and also YG rap/pop artists.

    AH, MY EARS! MY EARS!TERRIBLE with the Gangnam Style! 깡남 스타일! It’s Kangnam!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • slim

    @25. I agree with the overseas Korean commenters saying that article was off-base, condescending and exaggerated for effect. I lived in Kangnam from 1987-89 and it definitely wasn’t grim and dangerously overcrowded. Irony has probably been rare in K-pop, but I’m not sure the broader observation holds.

  • CactusMcHarris


    It’s not often I have to correct your romanization, but doesn’t 깡 require a Kkang transliteration? Personally, I’d pronounce the title of Psy’s hit and transliterate it as ‘Kangnam’ but Urimal wasn’t in me until I was a callow youth.

  • http://askakorean.blogspot.com thekorean

    @25 — I went to the same school as the author of that article, around the same time. She’s full of crap.

  • http://rjkoehler.com Robert Koehler

    @25: If you listen very, very carefully, perhaps you can here me in Gangbuk playing the world’s smallest violin for her and her irony-starved childhood in Gangnam.

  • Q

    The Guardian has an overreaching article, What’s so funny about Gangnam Style?:

    The South Korean pop video taking the internet by storm does little to overturn tired stereotypes of east Asian men

    Really? That might only explain limited sector of isolated Western population, especially old people who were born circa 1945 and grew up day in and day out with racist culture.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    #33, its actually a logical argument from the twisted premises of people wo subscribe to PCism. By this logic Psy can be a racist who is perpetuating negative stereotypes about Asians. I’m not sure how, exactly, maybe by being himself.

  • yuna

    Cactus, kkang = kkang might be what the current system now might have prescribed (naive double kieuk just translates to ㄲ)
    To my ears ㄲ is “G” with a high tone. Just as ㅋ is “K” with a high tone.
    What I mean by that is, that ask any Korean to read 깡패. They will read *Gang*peh with what’s in between i.e. Gang higher in actual tone (you know if you were singing a higher note) than peh. Same goes for 캉가루 (*Kang*aroo). It differentiates itself easily from Kang.
    As you know, I’ve been using the example “Koguryo” for ages. Both ㄱ in the word, just depends on where it is.

  • yuna

    sorry, missing what’s in between the *stars*

  • Q

    Psy’s GS hit no.1 in the UK singles’ chart. I promised he would go to GB if his song hits no. 1.


  • Q

    He promised… in an interview with BBC.

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936
  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936
  • Q

    The fired lifeguards now have their jobs back, yey!


  • CactusMcHarris


    As good as the Republican one. Sexy rabbi – two words I had never previously seen before. Mazel tov, indeed.