Understanding Psy (싸이 이해하기) / Psy-Ology

Gangnam Style is about the silliness of South Korea’s nouveau riche; Gentleman is (more or less) about the silliness of assholes.

This is the best of KPOP: incredibly simple, incredibly fast, incredibly repetitive, incredibly catchy. All South Korea will be playing this song from every storefront and every television and every smartphone around the clock for the next six months, long after the rest of the world has lost interest; nonetheless, Psy is no one-hit wonder.

The two comedians at the beginning of this video, No Hongchul (flexing his wang, with the beard) and Yu Jae-seok (elevator bowl cut) seem to have been included as a thematic link with Gangnam Style. They’re both household names and stars of various comedy shows here in the Daehan Mingook, but on a pre-Gangnam televised trip to New York City they were recognized by absolutely no one. Now I have a feeling that if and when they go again, people will be like, you’re those weird dudes from Psy’s videos!

Other celebrities and references to Korean pop culture fill Gentleman, and some of the clips were actually taken from these comedy shows. One, at 2:34, occurred when some comedians demanded that Psy Mansay! to show his armpits, since Koreans, apparently down to the last ajumma and ajoshi, believe that Psy sweats too much when he performs (his Korean nickname is 겨땀, Armpit Sweat). But this word, Mansay (만세), which means Ten Thousand Years, is currently used to salute Kim Jong-un (also known as Bad Psy), and it was used (to great effect) by Japanese kamikaze pilots. You can, furthermore, find it translated into dubbed English at the beginning of The Last Emperor—you will be the Lord of Ten Thousand Years, or something to that effect.

The white sausage-like thing that Psy devours is deok, a sort of rice cake-slash-confection. The woman who overpowers his chauvinism was chosen because Koreans believe that Westerners like her kind of face (Koreans also seem to believe that Western ideas of beauty, like Korean ideas of beauty, are monolithic): her nose job is obvious, but her eyes are all natural. The funky dance is nothing special, and it was actually purchased by Psy from these random ladies.

Almost all of the information here comes from my Korean wife, who, let the record show, liked Psy way before he was cool. She posted Gangnam Style on facebook a month or two before it exploded, and no one commented. Such is the nature of greatness. Her hipster street-cred is through the roof, however, thanks to this pop-musical perspicacity.

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5 thoughts on “Understanding Psy (싸이 이해하기) / Psy-Ology

  1. mrtnk says:

    “random ladies”? the woman in the mv is one of those 4 random ladies… not that random i think.

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