‘Gangnam Style’: Is Japan Immune to PSY Mania?

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If you’re tired of Korean rapper PSY’s ubiquitous viral hit, “Gangnam Style,” it may be time to pack your bags for Japan.

It’s an unsual paradox: Korean pop, a.k.a. K-Pop, is huge in Japan as it is elsewhere in Asia, with artists like Girls’ Generation and TVXQ regularly drawing teenyboppers’ ears. But for a variety of reasons, “Gangnam Style” — which rose to #2 on the U.S. Billboard charts and has been viewed more than 460 million times on YouTube — just isn’t all that big in Japan.

(MORE: Seoul Music: The World Is Finally Ready for K-Pop)

Maybe it is because no one has just been paying attention all that much. “Over the past month, Japanese media  rarely reported about “Gangnam Style” fever,” reports the English-language version of the South Korean news site Dong-a Ilbo:

As a result, Japanese are familiar with Korean actors such as Bae Yong-jun, aka Yonsama, and Jang Geun-seok but hardly know PSY.

The leading [Japanese] daily Mainichi Shimbun on Friday featured Psy’s song in the article, “Close to #1 in the U.S.,” but gave just a brief mention about his concert at Seoul Plaza the previous day that was broadcast worldwide and the song’s position on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.

Intereretsingly PSY, a.k.a. Park Jae-sang, is far from unknown in Japan, despite the fact that he fails to fit the mold of a typical K-Pop star (which is to say, young, svelte and extremely attractive). According to the Japan-based publication Rocket News, PSY’s own rise to fame was in fact reported by Japanese music publications and pundits.

(MORE: WATCH: PSY’s ‘Gangnam Style’ Is the Best Invisible Horse-Riding Rap Video You’ll See All Week)

But as the Japan-watching blog Kotaku noted, it’s common practice for K-pop stars to release Japanese-language versions of their hits in order to capitalize on their biggest market outside Korea. And according to Rocket News, the local version of “Gangnam Style” never made it to Japanese shores  — but not for lack of effort:

As it turns out, [PSY] tried. Back in August, PSY’s Japanese record label, YGEX, announced that PSY would release a slightly-modified Japanese version of “Gangnam Style” called “Roppongi Style” in late September. After the original song exploded in popularity overseas, YGEX decided to stick with the original Korean “Gangnam Style,” but still aim for a September Japanese release.

For reasons that are still unclear, “Roppongi Style” never quite made it on the air. YGEX put the single on hold without further explanation.

Lastly, it’s entirely possible that the recent political climate in northeast Asia might have cooled the Japanese fever for Korean pop songs.  In late August — just as PSY was quickly rising to worldwide prominence — a dispute erupted over the Takeshima and Dokdo islets between Japan and Korea, with both countries claiming ownership. With diplomatic tensions running high, the Japanese public increasingly steered away from any perceived pro-Korean sentiment.

(MORE: War’s Legacy Plagues Japan and Its Neighbors)

It’s a shame, really. In NewsFeed’s opinion, there isn’t a diplomatic row in the world that couldn’t be resolved with a little invisible horse dancing.

Erica Ho is a contributor at TIME and the editor of Map Happy. Find her on Twitter at @ericamho and Google+. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

62 comments
star0cean44
star0cean44

I think the question that should be asked is 'why do people care what people of japan likes and dislikes' as if it's something special?

yuhki
yuhki

I think this is related to neither political nor conservative nature of Japanese. When I saw PSY first time , I felt it could be hard to succeed in Japan. We have seen some strange music and performances already in this category. I imagine most of Japanese people feel that PSY is a little bit old style that Japanese performers already had tried long time ago.

When I saw 'Gangnam Style' first, I felt he needed to be more funny, wired than Happa-tai that had a huge hit in Japan long time ago. -> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V9TwP0nL7vEA

 Other KPOP such as KARA and Girl's generation are widely accepted in Japan. I think because they have something new (cute and catchy) to Japanese people.

adusayumi
adusayumi

While Gangnam Style swept all over the world,billboard No.1 song in Japan was "Oh"Girls Generation(k-pop).Most japanese business magazines regarded Gangnam Style MV very highly.So it is not correct that a japanese jealousy hindered his success in Japan.It has been over ten years since they didnot have the song which everyone knows.

jay-vancouver
jay-vancouver

In Japan, the right wing group find the GANGNAM phenomenon repugnant, and want to suppress it in any way. they can not stand Korean holding world spotlight and they wish Korean are not supposed to run wild.

Japanese media receiving directions and orders from right wing groups on how the korean Gangnam  should be like.

Japan should be more frank with world. Don't be jealous! 

cherrypie21
cherrypie21

And you are a Korean? Because your question sounds so Korean (Oh no, I am not a racist, this guess may have come from the habit of reading Korean papers; they often care about Japanese reaction for what they dealt with ) 

Why a specific people have to appreciate the thing that other peoples do so? You may be wrong if you think every people but the Japanese like him (obviously you have no enough evidence). 

I am a Japanese and personally I like the video, although I wonder why this was such a great hit in the world and why Japanese people are not interested in it. My casual answer is that we have often seen similar types of comical actions or gags on TV so PSY's video has not such significant impact that it has had in the world right now. 

But I don't say PSY copied any of Japanese things...never say, never think, hohoho. 

agingin
agingin

@Exphysicist @sayu_xiaolin やはり島問題ですか…(汗)島問題といえば、昨日まで「捜狐」から日本ドラマが削除されてたような(見間違いでなければ)。今みたら復活してました

nennpa
nennpa

@ginco_silver なんすかこの人、初めて知った。めちゃコージー冨田みたいです

Trajan Saldana
Trajan Saldana

maybe the song just sucks...seeing as it's #2 in the US that makes sense

Daegamnym
Daegamnym

To Japanese people, there are only two languages in the whole world: Japanese and English.

Japanese don't like the song because it's sung in Korean language, pure and simple.

Dove_Of_Peace
Dove_Of_Peace

Check out the Youtube ranking. After Youtube actually checked how long people watched the video as opposed to how many times the video is viewed, it is completely outside the ranking. Guess this singer's company was just scamming the results. There is no way this crappy video lives up to Adele and Gaga. I hate it when the company manipulated the view count like that. 

Dan Watson
Dan Watson

You might as well have asked if North Koreans are immune to Gangnam Style.  Japan and Korea historically hate each other.  Are Americans going to go crazy with Russian or German techno, probably not.

angilinwago
angilinwago

Gangnam style is catching on because its funny "WTF" moments shown in its music video, which are perhaps relatively new to many western viewers, Japanese have seen enough "WTF" moments already on their regular TV, they are not that surprised. Doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure it out.

angilinwago
angilinwago

Gangnam style is catching on because its funny "WTF" moments shown in its music video, which is perhaps relatively new to many western viewers, Japanese have seen enough "WTF" moments already on their regular TV, they are not that surprised. Doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure it out. 

don m
don m

The reason Japanese are quiet because they were shocked and so jealous that they've  lost every words..LOL

HANZO
HANZO

Japan's not jealous of PSY. They just don't like it, so what, I don't like it either.

mits ogawa
mits ogawa

Why do you have to politicize everything?

Other K-pop artists are still popular in Japan, but PSY isn't because of the island dispute?

You're not making sense.

griggsy
griggsy

yeah Paul they're all jealous of the new Macarena.

21 BEARS
21 BEARS

It is the Age of the Internet; Of course, Japanese people are well aware of PSY's current international success. But they do not want to admit it; Japanese media have been bashing PSY and "Gangnam Style" and trying their best to discredit it.

Yet, an Illegal copy of "Gangnam Style" charted high on Japan's iTunes. (YG--the label that PSY is affiliated with--had to take down the illegal copy song.) Illegal copies? Come on, Japan.

MaxTruth
MaxTruth

@star0cean44 


If you don't know then don't post. For once I'd love to see a Korean or Chinese young person that can think for themselves rather than tow the party line. Until then, take your hate and stick it up y ass. 

ginco_silver
ginco_silver

@nennpa 江南スタイルって曲が世界中でヒットしてまして、今中華~アジア圏でも人気のメタボで自然な韓流男子、といえばいいかしら..

Daegamnym
Daegamnym

Yeah, that explains more than half of the views came from North American and less than 5% of views are from Korea.  NOT!  And how do you explain all the iTunes downloads and club plays all over the world?

Agniel
Agniel

Mostly because the Japanese have provided the Koreans with so many reasons in the last several hundred years.

Fabian Enders
Fabian Enders

Why does Erica politize this?

Time and Erica Ho gotta eat.

cassiopeiajp
cassiopeiajp

Agreed. I'm Korean but i think it's irrelevant that PSY not being popular in Japan just simply connects to the dispute of the island. I'm guessing he's simply just not the tastes of the Japanese. The media has over-exaggerated it to a greater extend than it actually is.

cherrypie21
cherrypie21

@21 BEARS 

As far as I know, Japanese media have never bashed PSY. Rather they reported how PSY's video impacted on the net.

And  you better know 80% of the sales of Hallyu is from Japan according to a Korean government research . The Japanese have been the best target of Korean entertainment. What about PSY? They just missed the chance of the promotion in Japan. They were getting ready to release the Roppongi Style" by PSY himself which is the Japanese version of Gangnam style but failed to do it because the island dispute occurred.

Alex
Alex

 No, Japanese people are just busy listening to shitty AKB48 songs all day long

HANZO
HANZO

Excuse me? I don't see any mention of illegal Korean copies of Japanese products? Like how Korean My Chew copied Japan's Hi Chew. Or how Korea also copied Japan's Kinoko no Yama. How about Korea's Pepero copying Japan's Pocky? Korea's 17 Tea copying Japan's 16 Tea. Did you know Korea even attempted to copy Japan's Pokemon, calling their version Powermon? Making a Korean copy of Japan's popular manga series One Piece, and calling it 'Wa Peace'... and another copy of Japan's Ranma 1/2 calling their version Ranma 1/3?  Don't you know Hyundai is just a copy of Honda? And what about the recent case between Samsung and Apple, where Apple sued Samsung for copying various Apple products AND WON! You know some Koreans even say Samurais are from Korea. Or how about Kimbap, isn't it just a Korean copy of Japanese sushi? Did you know some Koreans even think Jesus Christ (whether you believe in him or not) was Korean? Hahahaha so who's really copying? The whole Kpop industry is just a copy of Jpop. And as for Gangnam Style, it's just a cheap knock off of LMFAO's Party Rock Anthem, except in Korean and sang by a William Hung look-alike. And what exactly makes you think Gangnam Style is greater than anything that came out of Japan? In the 60's (yes THAT LONG AGO!) there was already a Japanese song that gained even more popularity than Gangnam Style, and they did that when there was NO INTERNET! The song was called Sukiyaki by Kyu Sakamoto, it's the only non-English song besides a few Spanish and French song to make it to #1 in the U.S. (Billboard Charts, etc.)

So don't talk in that condescending manner, acting like Korea's never copied Japan before. They've done it MUCH MUCH worse and to a greater extent. So I would suggest you just shut your mouth on that subject.Ignorance is bliss isn't it?

nennpa
nennpa

@ginco_silver なんかPVがすごくなんというか…うん日本ではちょっと感…世界中で売れてるんだ。

cherrypie21
cherrypie21

@Daegamnym 

That doesn't explain the mystery with You tube Dove took up at all. 

don m
don m

Stop pretending to be a Korean while slandering Psy, 

>>The media has over-exaggerated it to a greater extend than it actually is.<<< --- Really? LOL Typical jealous Japs distorting statement against the truth reality.

pissedperson
pissedperson

@HANZO

 @HANZO

Apple sued Samsung because of capitalism.

Samsung didn't copy any Apple products.

The irony is that Apple first product isn't original at all (see Xerox) and people today don't even remember.

Also stop spelling lies:

Koreans say Samurai are Korean?

Koreans say Jesus is Korean?

The whole Kpop industry is a copy of Jpop?

Gangnam Style is just a cheap knock off of LMFAO's Party Rock Anthem?

Hyundai is copy of Honda?


Try harder.

Japanese say they invented the Walkman but in reality it was a Brazilian invention (Sony even lost the litigation)

 Pathetic Japanese.

gtt2525see
gtt2525see

@HANZO would happily slit your windpipe and let you bleed

don m
don m

>>>Hyundai is just a copy of Honda?<<<

You japs are notorious for accusing everything , Just because similar name doesn't mean copying from Honda , Hyundai is totally different meaning from Honda and Hyundai has own million dollar BMW designer working for Hyundai since 2000 so shut your mouth.

It's the other way around -Japan copied everything from US since 1960   and Japan was able to rise from the ashes because of Korean war so be thankful to your ancestor Koreans, Even YOUR EMPEROR IS KOREAN. 

KosukeAnayama
KosukeAnayama

@nennpa 

「マツケンサンバ」と「寿司くいねえ」の組み合わせに感じたんだが?

Youtubeのアクセス数は、韓国の国策でVANKあたりが、必死に工作した可能性がある。

だから、1位から、一気に圏外へ落ちた。

nennpa
nennpa

@ginco_silver 曲はまあという感じですね。うむ

ginco_silver
ginco_silver

@nennpa アメリカと英国はビルボードで1位と2位(どっちがどっちか判らないが)取ったらしい。中華圏のバラエティ番組だとスゴイ流行ってる。私も曲は聴いたけど悪くない

Alex
Alex

Now you're just being a racist >_>

cassiopeiajp
cassiopeiajp

Lol how can i stop pretending to be a Korean when I am and how am I possibly 'slandering PSY'? I am incredibly proud of PSY but you've got to face the fact he didn't reach second in billboard because of his great singing skills. He was fortunate/smart enough to choose an addictive song which techno which is becoming quite popular. And yes, the Japanese should be jealous of us for having such a talented singer BUT it is still true that they are taking PSY being unpopular in Japan too seriously. Why can't you just simply think that they don't like techno-infused music?

gtt2525see
gtt2525see

@Amaya Yamauchi die painfully idiot

cherrypie21
cherrypie21

@don m 

you totally messed up with the history and facts, and mired in the hatred you guys have been educated for, poor kid. 

Alex
Alex

You know... Koreans are supposedly ancestors of Chinese >_>