Moral Low Ground

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Superstar Psy’s ‘Anti-American Style’ Past Revealed

From anti-American style to “Gangnam Style”

Psy, the Korean rapper who recently set a record for most-viewed YouTube video of all time with his infectious “Gangnam Style,” has been revealed to have sang shockingly anti-American lyrics in the past.

According to Mediate, Psy’s first anti-American outburst occurred in 2002, when he performed at a concert protesting the presence of 37,000 US troops stationed in South Korea.

Those troops provide a measure of deterrence against any potential North Korean aggression, but they also often commit crimes, including rapes and murders, against Koreans that incense locals.

In 2002, a US tank ran over two 14-year-old Korean schoolgirls, Shin Hyo-sun and Shim Mi-seon, killing both. The American soldiers involved were tried by a military court and found not guilty of negligent homicide, further infuriating many Koreans.

It was against this backdrop that Psy performed, smashing a miniature US tank to pieces as the audience howled its approval.

In 2004, South Korean translator and Christian missionary Kim Sun-il was kidnapped by Islamic resistance fighters in Iraq. Kim’s captors demanded that South Korea cancel plans to send 3,000 troops to participate in the US-led occupation of Iraq, an endeavor which claimed the lives of more than 100,000 Iraqis and bred widespread hostility toward the invaders. When Seoul refused to bow to the kidnappers’ demands, Kim was beheaded.

Psy once again took to the stage to vent his anger at the United States. He, along with several other prominent Korean musicians, performed a song called “Dear America.” When his turn on the mic came, Psy rapped:

“Kill those fucking Yankees who have been torturing Iraqi captives. Kill those fucking Yankees who ordered them to torture. Kill their daughters, mothers, daughter-in-laws and fathers. Kill them all slowly and painfully.”

Psy was referring to the horrific torture, rape and murder of Iraqi detainees, most of them innocent men, women and children, at US-run prisons in Iraq such as Abu Ghraib. The torture of detainees was ordered from the highest levels of the Bush administration.

While Psy’s violent lyrics against Americans are shocking, so are the US crimes he railed against. And when taken in context of the hyper-violent hip-hop culture, his vitriolic language does not seem so out of the ordinary. As Mediate points out, former gangsta rapper Ice-T, who experienced first-hand the realities of police brutality and discrimination in South Central Los Angeles, once rapped about killing cops. But Ice-T is now one of rap’s elder statesmen and even plays a cop on NBC’s “Law and Order: SVU.”

Time will tell whether Psy’s anti-American past will dent his popularity in the United States. “Gangnam Style” reached #2 on the US pop charts and although the artist’s staying power is questionable, he currently counts millions of adoring American fans. Will they care that he once took principled– yet highly abrasive– “anti-American style” stands against US crimes of empire?

UPDATE: Psy has issued an apology for his anti-American vitriol:

“As a proud South Korean who was educated in the United States and lived there for a very significant part of my life, I understand the sacrifices American servicemen and women have made to protect freedom and democracy in my country and around the world. The song I was featured in — from eight years ago — was part of a deeply emotional reaction to the war in Iraq and the killing of two innocent Korean civilians that was part of the overall antiwar sentiment shared by others around the world at that time. While I’m grateful for the freedom to express one’s self I’ve learned there are limits to what language is appropriate and I’m deeply sorry for how these lyrics could be interpreted. I will forever be sorry for any pain I have caused anyone by those words.

I have been honored to perform in front of American soldiers in recent months — including an appearance on the Jay Leno show specifically for them — and I hope they and all Americans can accept my apology. While it’s important we express our opinions, I deeply regret the inflammatory and inappropriate language I used to do so. In my music I try to give people a release, a reason to smile. I have learned that though music, our universal language we can all come together as a culture of humanity and I hope that you will accept my apology.”

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