In the ISS Korean Economy class last summer (July 2012), students studied how the South Korean economy developed, and learned about some of the country’s biggest industries. Then, we turned to the Hallyu, or “Korean Wave,” through which Korea is transmitting its culture around the world. The class was divided into teams to explore Korean pop music (K-Pop) and make presentations to the class.
One of the first teams gave a presentation about a chubby hip-hop performer named Psy, whose innovative song and dance on YouTube called “Gangnam Style,” caught our attention. The next team had a student from Italy. That team showed us a flash-mob video from the central plaza in Milan, Italy, with a bunch of Italians performing Gangnam Style! A third team included a Mexican student. That team showed a flash-mob video from Mexico City – with the smallish mob also dancing and singing Gangnam Style.
The students had already learned that South Korea is the world’s largest shipbuilder, that it has some of the world’s fastest growing automakers (Hyundai and Kia), and that it has the world’s largest maker of computer memory chips (Samsung). At that point in July, however, we could never have guessed that by November – only four months later – Psy’s Gangnam Style would become the most-watched and most-liked video in YouTube history, with over 850 million hits and the number still rising. The flash mobs in Milan and Mexico City perhaps should have given us a hint.
South Korea’s dynamic economy continues to have many surprises!
What do you think is behind Psy’s popularity? Will Gangnam Style pass a billion hits by ISS 2013? Or maybe by New Year’s Day? Post a comment and let us know what you think.
~ Professor Norman Thorpe, ISS Korean Economy course