Relevance of the ‘Gangnam Style’

Has anyone heard of the Gangnam style?? Well, even I was unaware of it until yesterday. A week back, I was watching the India-Pakistan T-20 match and in between the match I received a message from my friend stating  whether I have the Gangnam style. For a second I got confused by what did she mean by whether or not I have the Gangnam style. I thought maybe it’s some video or song but the name of it sounded so ridiculous that I instantly denied without even bothering to ask what was it all about. So, what is the ‘Relevance of the Gangnam style.

If a layman has access to the Internet, then chances are high that he has seen the over-rated music video for South Korean pop star Psy’s Gangnam Style, which has gained more than 330 million views on YouTube and has been rated number one on iTunes. Released on July 15, 2012, it is debuted at number one on the Gaon Chart, the national record chart of South Korea. Psy himself has been in the media lately  in the United States and has appeared on the MTV Video Music AwardsEllen (twice), The Today Show and Saturday Night Live. The video has been shared on the Internet by T-PainKaty PerryBritney Spears, and Tom Cruise and has also been featured in international media outlets such as The Wall Street Journal, the Financial TimesCNN International and the Harvard Business Review. The intentional lack of a copyright has led to the international success of the song allowing people to easily adopt, re-stylize and spread the song.

Gangnam is Seoul’s richest and flashiest neighborhood, or to sum it up it’s the Korean equivalent of Silicon ValleyWall Street, Beverly Hills, Manhattan’s Upper East Side and Miami Beach all rolled into one representing the luxurious life for which the Koreans strive for. The Seoul district is just seven square miles but holds 7% of Korea’s GDP, whereas in New York State, which is 3,000 times the size of Gangnam, holds 7% of U.S. GDP. Forty-one percent of students at the nation’s most prestigious college, Seoul University, come from Gangnam, which in the U.S., is like having 41% of Harvard students come from Manhattan.

Though the song is catchy enough, but at the same time the video ridiculous enough, that one may not realize that Gangnam Style mixes its silliness with the social satire. The video is rich with subtle references, along with the song itself, delivering a  message about wealth, class, and value in South Korean society.

With Psycho, popularly known as Psy luxuriating on a sunny beach and being fanned by a beautiful woman until the camera pulls out to reveal that he’s actually resting on a children’s playground and the woman is merely a figment of his imagination, sweating in a sauna alongside low-ranking gangsters, going for a swim in a public bathhouse and dancing in the aisle of a tourist bus instead of an exclusive club depicts his comical  attempts to live large in Gangnam style which is distinctly unglamorous, offering a satirical take on South Korea’s culture of consumer excess and pointing out the ridiculousness of the materialism. But Psy is not unhappy. He’s as happy in the children’s playground as he would have been on a beach at an exclusive resort while he meets the girl of his dreams while riding the subway.

Perhaps the message of the video isn’t so much that Gangnam-style life is hollow and meaningless but that living large is more about attitude than money. In a society obsessed with status, money and consumer excess, it is a reminder that the best things in life are for free and do not require maxing out credit cards.

And how can one miss the dancing as if Psy is riding an invisible horse. Though it’s pretty easy, the invisible horse depicts the man’s desire to be rich. But Samsung thinks it can sell a fridge and would soon be one of the new faces for its Zipel line of refrigerators.

Koreans are known for spending to look wealthy, and Gangnam is the leading edge of that. South Korea’s sky-high credit card debt rate, heavy spending, and the country’s astounding, two-generation growth from agrarian poverty to economic powerhouse, extraordinary gains as a country, in terms of GDP, kids there being trust-fund babies and not self made millionaires, plastic surgery, wearing designer labels, driving BMWs (which cost twice as much as in the USA due to 100%-150% import taxes), spending $6 on coffee at Starbucks and $2 on lunch, relocation of Samsung and other high-tech companies to Gangnam and arrogance like the rich subset of any population, potrays the shallowness of human society and how silly the whole concept of show-off is.

Young people are finally realizing that country’s growth has not been equitable and there is actually a backlash. There is a huge amount of resentment from youth about their economic circumstances. Forms of leisure that are not accessible to most Koreans on a regular basis have been showcased in the video. Spending more than one can afford seems the trend in Korea. The Financial Times reported that household debt in South Korea has reached a perilous high of 155% of disposable income, which is higher than the U.S. figure(138%).

So, to sum it up, what we learnt is that never live beyond your means. Buying or owning something at present might make us happy, but our happiness level reverts to what it was before the purchase, making ourselves look more ridiculous and feeling worse. As the saying goes ‘All that glitters is not gold’, is appropriate in this contest. Your friend’s fabulous lifestyle may be funded  not by cash but by debt. Remember that everyone has a different life path and circumstances are constantly changing. You may envy someone’s lifestyle now, but then later, the tables may be turned. Never get into excess credit card debt. While debt is debt and what you get out of it doesn’t appreciate in value or increase your earning power. Last but not the least there are several other means to enrich your life for free. I am not saying money does not buy happiness, but not always.


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  10. Radhika Shrivastava says:

    Shressti – A very interesting read, and am impressed with your ability to relate so many different ideas cohesively to convey the takeaway message from the Video. Doubly commendable as apart from ‘gangman style’ and a few other phrases, I did not follow what Mr. Psy was singing!

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  17. Amritanshu Kar says:

    Well written. ‘All that glitters is not gold’ sums it up totally !
    nd i seriously hate that video !!!

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    Intersting information about Gangman, his success and economy of his country…!!

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