My Grandfather passed away three days ago and in 1981 he and my grandmother who died in 1992 recorded this video testimony of their struggles before and after the Korean War.
When I was a kid in the 70′s, mentioning that you were Korean-American got at best a shrug, maybe a laughing reference to the backdrop people on MASH, or a punch in the face. This began to change in the 80′s as more stuff started coming from Korea -people forget that for a time, Korea was to cheap stuff what China is now, but the first real milestone was the arrival of Hyundai automobiles in the mid eighties. No question, the car they sent over was a cheap POS, but it was a sign that we were arriving. The Olympics in ’88 in Seoul further confirmed this, and capped off a run that while sputtering in the late ’90s with a debt crisis, was balanced by real democratic transfers of power between competing parties, and the rise of Korean popular culture in the 00′s. K-POP, a genre that mixes commercialism (think Monkees perpetrated by a Zenith/IBM/NBC conglomerate if it had existed in the late 60′s) with world youth culture, has exploded first in Asia, then Europe, now the rest of the world. PSY’s viral Youtube video (http://youtu.be/9bZkp7q19f0) is just establishing a beachhead for the rest of KPOP which is already here in the US among pockets of youth who like to be different.
If you check out other KPOP groups like 2NE1 or BigBang, you’ll see that it’s only a matter of time -a few months I bet, before their supermegahits from Asia/Europe/Latin America will hit the US with English lyrics which these groups sing without an accent. The difference between now and the 1970′s when Pink Lady showed up on US airwaves with a variety show (with Jeff!) is the weight of social media which clearly outweighs the effect of traditional media which would never have seen/featured/mentioned/played PSY.
What does it mean to have PSY dancing with Al Roker on the Today Show at 30 Rock? What does it mean to have a Korean-American Jersey Shore-type reality show (Ktown - http://youtu.be/2rhDjxDLyjk)? What does it mean to have K-Drama and K-Movies on Hulu and Netflix? Not a clue, but the sudden urge to get my weight down to 150lbs, bleach my hair platinum blond, and go and wear Prada has hit me because I want some of that Gangnam style, and that is the real deal -getting into my head and programming me is something The Killers, Jay-Z, Eminem, Coldplay, Lady Gaga, and Nicky Minaj haven’t been able to do as well as PSY has with the opening scene of his music video (is that a short person or a really talented toddler?).
Now, I must go and dance.