Gangnam Style: South Korean Music and Humour is a Winning Combo

I pretty much follow a routine with my blog. Before I even think of writing anything I read the blogs I follow (well skip read if truth be told, I follow a lot of blogs) and I always read the latest entries in the Freshly Pressed arena.

I will admit a certain puzzlement as to why some of the blogs that are ‘pressed’ have received the honour of being singled out (this includes my own blog which was freshly pressed not so long ago). But to be very brutally honest, I don’t really care. It is nice just to read other folks blogs and learn new things or learn old things presented in a different light.

I read the Freshly Pressed today and right at the top of the list was I Grew up Gangnam Style. Because of the thumbnail I realized that I had seen this chap before. In fact the most recent image of this fellow and his natty outfit was a Lego rendition of his music video.

Now the blog post that had been Freshly Pressed did not go into the music video or the chap who made it (PSY if you’re interested). It did give a brilliant parallel reveal of what life in South Korea was like living in the province where the video was shot. It’s a good read, if you didn’t follow the link before, have a look now. It’s in the first paragraph.

But on to the video. I had seen the odd reference to Gangnam Style here and there and it did not arouse enough curiosity for me to look it up. Then the article today appeared and I just had to look this phenomena up. I’m glad I did. It is brilliantly funny and vastly entertaining. Don’t believe me? Just have a look:

Until now, the only other musical artist from Korea who delivered so much humour with his videos was M C MONG. In case you’ve never heard of him, here’s a sample of his music video humour:

M C MONG – CIRCUS

Not to your taste? Then have a look at the Korean film The Fox Family. Made in 2006, this supernatural fantasy musical (that’s right, I said musical) is funny, and the musical numbers are brilliant. Just look at the ‘Money’ song:

Money – The Fox Family

So you can see that Korea has been blending music and humour for a while now. It took PSY and his music video to make the fact known world-wide. At over 290 million views the video now holds the record for viral videos. It is interesting to read the blog  post and the authors assertion that South Korea has just discovered irony. That may well be true, but, I think that South Korea has always had a sense of humour.

If you watch their TV shows, it appears that all the participants (especially those in the entertainment business) love to laugh and make fun of themselves. Not everyone of course, but a huge amount do appear to enjoy not taking themselves too seriously.

I review Asian horror films on YouTube and I’ve had a few people tell me that they don’t get ‘Korean humour’ citing it as being too slapstick in origination and ‘over the top.’ I did not then and still do not understand that statement. South Korean Humour is more than ‘3 stooges slapstick’ it can be sly, surprisingly subtle and in the case of the PSY video, funny and ironic.

The message of the PSY video is that South Korean’s are incredibly concious of how they look when they intermingle with one another in a social setting. Clothing, hairstyle, fashion sense, body weight and plastic surgery are all important facets of Korean social life. I’ve watched a huge amount of YouTube videos (mostly Eat Your Kimchi – Simon and Martina Rule!) that explain what living in South Korea is like.

These informative videos made the Gangnam Style music video all the more humorous. The word on the street is that South Korean’s are well aware of their cultural foibles and this self awareness is what has made the video both ironic and just downright funny.

My daughter has been a fan of KPOP for years and has shown me just about every boy and girl band manufactured over the last ten years in Korea. I have also discovered, through my daughters influence, M C Mong and other solo artists. PSY I discovered via Freshly Pressed and Quartz’s fine post about growing up in that area of Seoul.

Humour is a world wide common meeting ground. Sure some places in the world practise a different sort of humour. A sort of ‘home-grown’ or topical humour that doesn’t always translate well into other countries or languages. But laughter and the ability to laugh at ones self crosses all language or topical restrictions.

It is amazing to think that a music video can become the worlds most viral video until you factor in that is was a funny music video. It’s a shame that the whole world and it’s leaders cannot learn a lesson from these humorous videos. Like the old saying goes, “Laugh and the world laughs with you.”

What a nice thought.

About Michael Knox-Smith

Word traveler, writer, actor, vlogger, blogger, journalist. Entertainment background. Cinephile who reviews films, television, YouTube shows, Books and interviews professionals in the industry. Old journos never retire, they start their own site. Member Nevada Film Critics Society

9 thoughts on “Gangnam Style: South Korean Music and Humour is a Winning Combo

  1. “It’s a shame that the whole world and it’s leaders cannot learn a lesson from these humorous videos.” I had a very similar thought about the Gangnam Style video: look at the way this silly video has brought the whole world together in agreement on _something_. What a powerful tool humor could be!

  2. Humor has the great attribute of diffusing tension, especially when it is directed at one’s self. I’m typically shy, but I find my social confidence rises when I use humor well. Even around perfect strangers it just opens up such a nice connection where the unfamiliarity is no longer an issue. Humor expresses an underlying humanity. That may be the key to artists like Psy. I’m by no means a KPOP fan, but the video is infectious even to me. Just seeing people having fun, not taking themselves seriously, and, of course, surrounded by hot Korean women, makes for an atmosphere of fun and easiness, and I think we can relate across cultures that way. I don’t understand most of what Psy says in the song, and didn’t even know he was referring to a province in Seoul until now, but it is just fun to watch and listen to. I think it no longer amounts to this culture and that culture, but humans just having fun.

    1. I agree. It seems that a lot of people have lost sight of the importance of laughter and having fun. Comedy is infectious and as such should become viral (as PSY’s video has proven). I understand what you mean about being shy, I;ve suffered from shyness most of my life and I found quite quickly that self-depreciating humour always helps to break the ice. Thanks for stopping by and sharing you thoughts! Cheers mate! :-)

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