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  • P-ISSN0023-3900
  • E-ISSN2733-9343

The Korean Tradition of Humor in Psy’s “Gangnam Style”

Korea Journal, (P)0023-3900; (E)2733-9343
2016, v.56 no.1, pp.5-32
https://doi.org/10.25024/kj.2016.56.1.5

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Abstract

In his carefully crafted music video, “Gangnam Style,” Psy reveals an infectiously positive attitude toward life, reflecting the Korean parody tradition of haehak, as opposed to the more critical pungja. Particularly, haehak’s optimistic attitude toward life prioritizes group enjoyment over social criticism. Psy’s video symbolizes an attempt to go through all the difficulties in life with a unique sense of humor and undaunted perseverance. He expresses his positive attitude toward life by creatively transforming the negative to the positive. At the same time, he produces a dynamic video by subverting his audience’s expectations whenever he pokes fun at his characters and their situations. Psy’s portrayal of himself as a “psycho” points to both his eccentricity and passion. His emphasis on eccentricity registers the pagyeok spirit of haehak, particularly breaking with the conventions of the Korean music industry. His relentless pursuit of passion also registers the active attitude of haehak. As a kind of “collective sensibility,” Psy’s group entertainment goes beyond the negative aspects of other popular music, such as homophobia and misogyny. Psy actively partakes of the global creative adaptation of popular music. Creatively remixing East and West, the contemporary and the traditional, he produces a unique humor that alleviates people’s distress during hard times across the globe.

keywords
Psy Gangnam Style Korean culture haehak pungja satire parody pastiche

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