Gangnam Rile: Psy’s Past Anti-American Performances Stir Controversy

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Chung Sung-Jun / Getty Images

Psy performs onstage during the 17th Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) at the Lotte Hotel on October 6, 2012 in Busan, South Korea.

Before he was elevated to international superstardom this year thanks to the magic of his invisible horse dance, Psy was a rapper and music producer in his native South Korea with a bad-boy reputation. In the late ’90s he dropped out of Boston University and the Berklee School of Music without earning degrees, was fined for his first album in 2001 for using “inappropriate lyrics,” and in 2007 he came under investigation for shirking mandatory military duty in South Korea. Now there’s another indiscretion to add to the “Gangnam Style” star’s rap sheet: Psy is coming under fire for a pair of shocking anti-American performances he gave a decade ago.

According to Korean media reports, during a 2002 performance Psy hoisted a toy model of a U.S. tank and proceeded to smash it on the stage with a microphone stand, later joining the crowd in anti-American chants. Busan Haps reports that there was video of this incident posted on YouTube until recently, when it was removed by an entertainment company citing copyright claims. Psy’s on-stage protest was spurred by the killing of two 14-year-old Korean girls when they were run over by an American military vehicle on a South Korean road just north of Seoul. Anti-American sentiment was high, though the two soldiers driving the vehicle were found not guilty of negligent homicide during a court martial.

(PHOTOS: ‘Gangnam Style’ Mania: This Is What Happens When Psy Performs a Free Concert)

In 2004, Psy took the stage with a number of other popular South Korean performers at a protest concert to perform a song called “Dear America,” originally written by N.E.X.T., a South Korean metal band. Psy, along with the other musicians, sang along to the lyrics, which read:

Kill those f—ing Yankees who have been torturing Iraqi captives
Kill those f—ing Yankees who ordered them to torture
Kill their daughters, mothers, daughters-in-law, and fathers
Kill them all slowly and painfully

The 2004 concert was in protest of the al-Qaeda kidnapping of a South Korean missionary in Iraq. When South Korea refused to negotiate, refusing the terrorists’ demand that Seoul cancel its plan to send soldiers to help the U.S. fight the war in Iraq, the missionary was beheaded, and South Koreans took to the streets to protest the killing. These reports put Psy front-and-center in the protest concert, rapping about killing American soldiers.

(VOTE NOW: Should Psy Be TIME’s Person of the Year 2012?)

After intense media scrutiny this week, the 34-year-old pop star issued a statement through a publicist Friday afternoon.

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.

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.

In the letter, he cites his appreciation for the sacrifices of American servicemen and women, and his November 23 appearance on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno specifically for members of the military. Indeed, Psy has appeared on countless talk shows in America in the latter half of 2012, offering nothing but effusive thanks to the nation for helping him become a household name.

Amid the controversy, a petition circulated to stop Psy’s scheduled performance at the White House’s annual Christmas In Washington event. The petition, posted on the Obama administration’s official “We the People” petition website, was ultimately taken down, citing a violation of the site’s Terms of Participation, but it asked the White House to rescind Psy’s invitation. It had nearly 500 signatures when it was removed Friday afternoon.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Friday that the Obama family will still attend the Christmas In Washington performance on Dec. 21, and Psy’s invitation hadn’t been revoked. It’s unlikely that these newly dug-up anecdotes will depose Psy from his king-like level of stardom. But perhaps, at the White House concert, at least, the invisible lassoing and galloping will be somewhat subdued.

67 comments
hahn1600
hahn1600

how do you think i feel i expressed it in last post but they must have pulled it to hear what he said and he is in us( my brother died in us army fighting for the freedom his family has )

JohnLampke
JohnLampke

Every time I hear his music I want to kick him in the face as hard as I can. The only reason he's "sorry" is because he's afraid his comments could hurt his record sales in the States.  

MichelleTR
MichelleTR

Sure Psy, you realized that those "Americans" that you love to hate are making you rich, hence the "apology". You know which side your bread is buttered on. Had that song not been such a huge success, he would still be ranting about how much he hates Americans and how they should kill us all. Not buying it.

tomahauk2003
tomahauk2003

If a 24 years old man kills your Mothers and Sisters, will you forgive him, and if he got sentenced as a 13 years old boy, what will it be your reactions first?  If Psy perform the same song and the same manners like he did 10 years ago in front of President Obama again.  I WILL CONSIDER PSY A REAL MAN AND FORGIVE HIM!  His music will even sale more in the USA and more on Earth.

TheHan1337
TheHan1337

Hope this doesn't affect USA-Korea relations!Im Korean American guy ;)

MourningCalm
MourningCalm

If the Gangnam style video never happened, do you think he would have come out with this apology? Yeah sure, "I'm deeply sorry and forever sorry, please forgive me and buy my music."

Eugene
Eugene

Psy's comments represent the opinion of a very large segment of the South Korean population.  I didn't realize there was so much anti-American sentiment in South Korea until I first went there in 2006.  There are "No Americans Allowed" signs at restaurants and American GIs are specifically banned from many shops and restaurants.  "F--king USA" is one of the biggest hits in South Korea over the past decade or two.  There are regular protests near Jonggak station in Seoul where protesters burn American flags and yell loudly through loudspeakers.  They hold up signs saying American soldiers aren't real men, and so on.  My girlfriend is stationed at Osan AFB and I don't understand why the government sends her to South Korea to risk her life to protect Psy and millions of other Korean men like him.

observer717
observer717

I've never understood the kind of anti-Americanism that exists in Korea. Koreans sure got a lot more outraged about two accidental deaths by US soldiers than they did when North Korea deliberately killed 46 South Koreans by sinking a submarine in 2010. I think US soldiers have often been unfairly demonized in Korea. I've heard they commit a lot of crimes in Korea but if you look at the actual statistics there is a higher crime rate among Koreans than US soldiers. I personally don't agree with a lot of what the US military has done but I would never advocate the murder of all Americans- even innocent women and children. There are better ways to protest. 

tks_running
tks_running

You guys are funny. Ever since I can remember the US has been launching propaganda against most of the east. Most of you guys even cheered when you burned daughters and mothers in Vietnam and bombed Japan to pieces -Not to mention the terror you've brought to the rest of the world.

It is still shown in your movies, more or less directly, but when it shows that somebody said something 10 years ago, you start crying?? Give me a break!

Your fellow "marines" are nothing but brainwashed rednecks from the country side, naive and uneducated. They think they own anything, and especially in Korea, there were uncountable rape scenes before they finally issued a curfew.

TroyKim
TroyKim

It's sad. American people do not know what really happened to the two 14year old school girls. Those American soldiers who ran down the girls with military tank got acquitted and go free without any punishment. The court martial dropped the charges and completely ignored the case and that fuel the protests among south Korean people. Not just because girls were killed. 

GarySmith
GarySmith

That  fat red headed kid on YouTube tried to warn us... he was right...

GarySmith
GarySmith

It's so embarrassing what's happening to our country, we let this buffoon who has expressed hate speech towards our troops and their loves ones - come to our capital, dance like a horse and sing gibberish in front of our president. If an American rapper said, "Kill Koreans and let them die painfully and slowly" after SeungHui Cho (A Korean immigrant) massacred all those Americans at Virgina Tech the Koreans would not have been as forgiving and let him perform in front of their president. In fact, this how the Koreans would have responded. They would storm the web in the millions and crash servers with so many Anti-American comments. They would then organize rallies for months asking for his head, some would even do acts of self-immolation (setting themselves on fire) in protest, and then they would have their rappers (like Psy) sing hateful Anti-American songs. Eventually North Korea would test fire a missile and they would all run home with their tails between their legs silently praying that America protects them.

LarryCor
LarryCor

Our media sucks. This video has been huge for months, guy all over the place, and they only find out about his sick, sadistic anti-American lyrics now ('kill the Yankees' daughters slowly and painfully'...WTF? that's just sick). Don't they have any Korean speaking reporters or contacts?

I 'forgive' Mel Gibson too, if it means I don't weigh myself down with grudges. But Mel's still a sick dude, and so is this guy. Just forgetting a rant like that is stupid, IMO, even if the person claims 'sorry'.

HarveyMushman
HarveyMushman

F--- him and the invisable horse he rode in on.....

LiamKin
LiamKin

He tricked the white man good.

kvw0001
kvw0001

PSY is just upset that his dad is really an American soldier....that he doesn't know :)

JohnDavidDeatherage
JohnDavidDeatherage

Psy is free to feel and say what we wants about America.   I just don't think the President should invite him to our White House.  He said what he said, you can't unring a bell....  Let his 15 minutes of fame in America be over.....

APaperbackHero
APaperbackHero

Nothing new here. Someone actually makes something of themselves and then tabloid quality journalists dredge up old garbage from a decade ago to make a fast buck. PSY was in his young twenties at the time he made these lyrics and it was a period where much of the world was upset with the U.S. because of the Abu Ghraib torture scandal. You find this kind stuff in the lyrics of all kinds of foriegn musicians a decade ago.

IgnatzHimmelfarb
IgnatzHimmelfarb

The only truly offensive thing about this guy is his wretched, recycled rubbish that some people think is "music".

1916Collins
1916Collins

I'm not sure why the term "Anti-American" is being applied to his comments. The comments were anti-torture and anti-militarist.

Speaking harshly against militarism and torture are not a judgement call against an entire country.

Really it was the Iraq War and torture that are truly Anti-American not the lyrics this artist is being condemned for now.

If only there was as much moral indignation by others about the needless and disastorous Iraq war and the ugly practice of torture.

aclosedmind
aclosedmind

We're fortunate here (USA) to have the First Amendment. Mark Twain openly criticized the US gov't. for using military force in our attempt to build an empire (Thirty Thousand Killed A Million). Charles Lindberg thought what the Nazis were doing in 1939 was a good thing. (See his article on ethnic purity in Reader's Digest). Further, why should anyone care about the political views of an entertainer? His job is to make song and [silly but lucrative] dance.

rosejj
rosejj

Which Korean media did report that ?

flashpan
flashpan

And so continues the tradition of knocking someone down when they are on top.  Give the guy his moment- If he's a  one trick pony he will fade away into oblivion, until the next poor schmuck comes along for the ride.

haroharo
haroharo

Imagine,  foreign soldiers run over 2 little American girls furthermore not found guilty. Plus almost every month involving some drunk soldiers commiting crimes such as rapes, stealing, even killing civilians. The US media didn't tell you this because the soldiers are supposed to be heroes and glorified. Things got real ugly in Korea back when this song came out.. I bet Dixie chicks would say some crazy shits if that happened in American soil. 

DorothyZink
DorothyZink

Anyone who isn't trying to blow me up can say whatever they like.  It's not as if we have ever been perfect.   I don't like the words to that song, but if it has a beat I'll probably dance to it.  I  think there's a right missing in the Bill of Rights.  It says nothing about the right to complain ceaselessly.

rbien
rbien

As long as we have free school, tuitions, food stamps to the ingrates so they can go back home and be famous we're always going to be hated. 

coboys
coboys

Basically the US owns S. Korea since the Korean war. The Korean government tried to decline the order from the US to send the troops to Afganistan and Iraq. The Bush adminitration threaten all trading activities with S. Korea if not obeyed. So the captured missionary got beheaded by the Taleban terrorists. The US helped S. Korea in the beginning but its troops are still there for two reasons i.e. control the Korean military and for strategic base for the benefits of the US army.

GarySmith
GarySmith

@TroyKim It's so sad that Korean trash like Seung-Hui Cho immigrated to the US and thanked our country by committing the worst American school shooting in its history (Virgina Tech). Hmm military vehicle driven by US soldiers protecting Korea, passing through a small street and hits two girls by accident (who are WALKING ON THE STREET!). Have you seen Korean roads? People die on them everyday, especially with Koreans crazy PALI-PALI driving. One-time I almost got hit by a bus in Gangnam. If I did get hit should all of America go crazy and have Eminem rap about Killing Koreans? PSY and your logic are a FAIL

bloomsbury.squirrel
bloomsbury.squirrel

@GarySmith It's not gibberish, it's Korean. Stop worshipping ~the troops~; they're the direct supporters of literally countless murders and overthrows of legitimate governments and cultures around the world. They're the ones right now indiscriminately murdering men, women, and children. I'm sorry you think someone's inflammatory rapping (it's only words) is more of a big deal than that.

GarySmith
GarySmith

@APaperbackHero stop being an American apologist, what he said was wrong and WTF is wrong with our country, we need to snap out of it. We're elevating this fat slob, riding a invisible horse singing garbage we don't understand. 

HarveyMushman
HarveyMushman

Well gee, if all the foreign kids were doing it I guess it must be alright them?? Moron...

Btw a few naked games played with prisoners wasn't torture, the Real Torture started when the US handed over the prison to the Iraqis. Witness account say there was screaming throughout the night every night......

wilmerdon
wilmerdon

@1916Collins You are not sure? May be you should read this again: 

Kill their daughters, mothers, daughters-in-law, and fathers. Kill them all slowly and painfully

wilmerdon
wilmerdon

@aclosedmind Its not his political views that are repulsive but what he actually sang again and again "Kill their daughters, mothers, daughters-in-law, and fathers. Kill them all slowly and painfully" These are the words of a psychopath (No wonder he is called Psy)! But, he is not all that evil. He is just a bumbling idiot. 

rbien
rbien

@haroharo Just because just 1 or 2 girls  said no or changed her mind at the motel doesn't mean soldiers there, in S.Korea,  are raping Korean girls.

Go to Iteawon or anywhere where these hormone raging korean ladies are hanging out and you will understand why these foreigner man can't keep their pants on. 

If U.S media had to cover every hook up going wrong in Korea there would be no more paper to write on. 

I am not saying U.S military are perfect, I am just saying don't be bias. For I was there for 5 years...

HarveyMushman
HarveyMushman

@haroharo.....There wouldn't even be a South Korea without the huge sacrifices of the US military. It would be part of the totalitarian North. There also wouldn't be the hundreds of thousands of South Koreans living very comfortably and free in the USA.

kjjmac
kjjmac

@haroharo do you know the whole story? Just playing devil's Advocate here,but is it POSSIBLE these girls were either IN the road or ran into the road and it was an accident? Typical American hater.We are always the bad guy,yet we are the FIRST to assist in foreign disasters,educate Third World terrorists in our universities,give political asylum to those who would kill us and yet you condemn us? If you are here,LEAVE,if you are a foreigner,you get treated better in the U.S.A. than you would in your own country. We will feed you,shelter you,provide schooling and healthcare for you and your children,so that later on you can bite the hand that fed you.Shame on you. Let me show you the list of countries who sent aid to New York and New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy:

Oops. There IS no list. NO ONE. I rest my case. We are the most giving country in the world.The people who hate us are jealous.Jealous of out openness,our freedoms,our education.They all want to take the perks and then will spew vitriol about us.

wilmerdon
wilmerdon

@haroharo So? All that justfies "Kill their daughters, mothers, daughters-in-law, and fathersKill them all slowly and painfully"?

HarveyMushman
HarveyMushman

I hope you are smart enough to know our Bill of Rights has nothing to do with a Korean National. What a moronic post...

JitterbugPerfume
JitterbugPerfume

@rbien Huh? You think people hate us because we feed our poor and educate (albeit poorly) our citizens?

jmcrowle
jmcrowle

Yes..so terrible we Americans who rescued you from your neighbor...wish we could go back in time and let North Korea have their way with you. Then you'd see just how ridiculous your complaints about our asking you to help us is...while we helped you build up free markets and prosperity your people had never dreamed of. This is the thanks we get?

coboys
coboys

Yes. Seung-Hui Cho was a real psycho. Psy is just an entertainer who only cares  about having fun with crowds. Nothng more  or less. You canot group these two different people. It is like comparing Frank Zappa and Rambo. LOL

coboys
coboys

True. So American soldiers have been getting away with many war crimes and only a fraction have got tried and punished properly. So this gives power to the US and the military can either use or abuse depending on their needs. LOL

jmcrowle
jmcrowle

You're missing the point coboys....saying all Americans should die because of one tank incident involving two people is like saying all Koreans should die because of one Korean mass murderer here at Virgina Tech.

HarveyMushman
HarveyMushman

And a few games played with prisoners didn't kill anyone either....

aclosedmind
aclosedmind

@peaceisforeveryone @aclosedmind Perhaps there is percentage of the US population that believes We Are The Good Guys, God is on our Side and it's ok to bomb folks until they get a government that we like; and let's not hear any dissent about this. I just hope it's a small percentage.