"As a proud South Korean who was educated in the United States and lived there for a very significant part of my life,” he wrote, “I understand the sacrifices American servicemen and women have made to protect freedom and democracy in my country and around the world” (with obvious reference to his own country of South Korea).
He explained that, “The song – 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.”
Personally, I believe him, but I don’t understand what he means by “how these lyrics could be interpreted.” What is there to “interpret”? Why muddle an otherwise forthright statement?
He concluded by saying, “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.”
Americans tend to be forgiving people, and I hope that, on a national level, we accept PSY’s apology. At the same time, that doesn’t mean that he should be appearing at the White House. At least not yet.
To be sure, to truly forgive is to truly forget, and it could be argued that by the White House reaffirming its invitation, it is offering a wonderful demonstration of American magnanimity.
But wouldn’t it be much more honoring to the courageous Americans whom PSY so irresponsibly defamed to give him a rain check for Christmas 2013, with the understanding that he would spend time over the next 12 months making amends for his ugly words?
He could use his massive fame in South Korea to address the wrong attitudes that fueled some of the extreme anti-American sentiment and he could seek forgiveness directly from American troops and their families. And, with the honor of a White House performance delayed by 12 months, his lesson would be much better learned.
We offer forgiveness; he makes restitution; then he performs – and the American troops and their families are not so grossly dishonored.
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.