Gateway Korea Foundation

The Gateway Korea Foundation provides opportunities for the Heartland Community to learn about and experience Korean culture. Based in St. Louis, Missouri, the Gateway Korea Foundation will draw from communities across the American Midwest to nurture a greater understanding and appreciation for Korean culture.


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Kent't Korean Wanderings: Part II

Part II – Atlanta, Fall 2012

Welcome to Part II of my column.  For those of you who are new to this, you can see Part I below.

Last week we left off with our hero (That would be me) about to embark upon an epic journey to Atlanta. 

So, I headed off to Atlanta to attend Dragon Con.  While there, I was sitting in a bar that looked out over the crowd in the atrium of the JW Marriott in Atlanta.  That is a very large convention (Back in 2012 50,000 people attended over four days) so there were well over a 1,000 people milling about below. 

That is when I noticed these young Asian men that kept going up to people in the crowd and trying to get them to do this dance with them while their buddy was filming them.  The three of them that were dancing stood out a bit as they were dressed in a tuxedo, a yellow suit, and a kind of cowboy outfit.  I figured it was something from some anime I had not seen or something that was trending in Asia that I wasn’t familiar with and didn’t think much more about it.

That weekend I had joined Twitter for the first time as many of the cosplayers I went to take pictures of in their costumes were using it to say where they would be at certain times in their costumes.  While at my hotel room that evening I kept seeing tweets that referred to doing something “Gangnam Style.”  At the time “Gangnam Style” had not yet gone mainstream viral in the US.  It was just starting to go viral with those attuned to East Asian trends.

At first, I had thought that Gangnam was an intentional misspelling of the word Gundam which was from a popular anime series.  At the time, it was popular for many people to use “Oh My Gerd” instead of “Oh My God” or “OMG” in posts as a way of being cute.  However, I kept seeing this throughout the evening and started to wonder if something more was going on with “Gangnam Style”, so I Googled it.

Due to my fondness for anime, I was aware of Japanese pop and rock music as it is often used for the opening and closing theme songs for various series or movies.  I was a big fan of a Japanese rock band called L’arc en Ciel and was used to listening to and enjoying music from anime soundtracks even if it wasn’t sung in English.  While I wasn’t aware of K-pop specifically at the time I was aware of a Korean artist called BoA who was popular in Japan and had sung the ending theme for a season of one of my favorite anime series.  I had also read an article several years before that discussed how popular the Korean drama “Winter Sonata” had become in Japan and had heard the term Hallyu.  So, I wasn’t completely unaware of the Korean entertainment industry.

So, on that fateful night in Atlanta as I Googled “Gangnam Style” I was open to what I would find due to my background and interests.  A further stroke of good luck was that the first thing that popped up on Google other than the video itself was a legitimate article written for The Atlantic magazine (Article) that treated it as something other than a musical oddity and instead explained something about Psy (The singer), the song, its message, who some of the folks in the video were, and listed some American artists that had positive things to say about it.  Therefore, when I first clicked on the video on Youtube, I was doing so with real anticipation of what I might find.

I wasn’t disappointed.  The song was catchy, and the video was funny.  The production value was much higher than I anticipated.  I watched the video a couple times trying to catch things that had been mentioned in the article and enjoying the humor used in the video.  Also, I realized after watching it that those guys I saw going around the convention doing that odd dance earlier in the day were dressed as Psy, Yoo Jae Suk, and Noh Hong Chul  from the music video and were getting people to do the “Horsey Dance” with them.

To be continued next week…Part III