After his YouTube video went mega-viral, the South Korean rapper named PSY received an invitation to sing and dance at a White House Christmas party. But it was quickly learned that in 2004, he had rapped lyrics wishing for the death and torture of American troops in Iraq, along with their families. PSY quickly issued a humble apology to the American people, and the White House reaffirmed that PSY’s show would go on. Was this the right thing to do?
In case you haven’t heard of PSY, his Korean rap video “Gangnam Style” has been viewed more than 900 million times this year, breaking the YouTube record for the most watched video, previously held by Justin Bieber. (As a historical sidebar, if someone from a future generation were to ask us for a snapshot of what America looked like in 2012, we could tell them that 2012 was the year that an utterly inane YouTube video was viewed close to one billion times.)
If not for PSY’s overnight, international stardom, few Americans would have known about his presence in anti-American protest videos filmed in 2002 and 2004. In the latter, he rapped lyrics from a song called “Dear America,” written by the South Korean rock band N.E.X.T. saying
Kill those f**king Yankees who have been torturing Iraqi captives
Kill those f**king Yankees who ordered them to torture
Kill their daughters, mothers, daughters-in-law and fathers
Kill them all slowly and painfully.
Katie Pavlich gives some relevant background: “since becoming a democracy in the late 80s, South Korea has developed a rich, sometimes over-the-top, tradition of protest. Swarms of Koreans hit the streets to protest everything from free trade agreements to North Korea to Muslim extremism to American troops stationed on their peninsula.
“. . . in 2004, a Korean missionary was captured in Iraq by Islamists who demanded that South Korea not send troops to aid America in the war in Iraq. Seoul refused to negotiate and the missionary was beheaded. The result: massive protests throughout Korea against both Muslim extremism and the U.S. military for indirectly bringing this fate upon a Korean missionary.”
Naturally, Americans expressed their outrage upon learning about these videos, questioning how someone like this could be invited to perform at the White House.
PSY immediately issued what sounded like a very sincere apology.
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He is the author of 25 books, includingLine of Fire. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.