Pop Culture Across Cultures (Gangnam Style)


In the present era of globalization, various aspects of life have gone global, and culture has not been left behind. There has been what is called the globalization of music, such as hip-hop. In the post-modern age, the globalization of hip-hop seriously impacts the identity of the youth and even older people across the world. In fact, the hip-hop culture remains one of the most engaging, explosive, and controversial kinds of pop values in the world (Jenkins 28). The move toward post-modernism reveals that the world is currently in a technological era where cultural production and regulation of hip-hop, globalization, its visibility, and transnational effect across ethnic, racial, and national boundaries have created a blend of unpredictable identities. Therefore, it is imperative to discuss a pop culture artifact, “Gangnam Style”, to reveal how the song has played a role in transmitting the South Korean arts across cultures.

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“Gangnam Style

The song was released in 2012 and is associated with Seoul, the Gangnam District. Indeed, it is a story of a kind of culture, a class of people characterized by a trendy and lavish lifestyle (Grein para 1). The track is one of the many in the current world that has greatly influenced the popular culture of the world in the modern age. “Gangnam Style” is not just a catchy song; it presents the efforts by South Korea to export popular culture to the rest of the world (Chung-un para 2). South Korea has become a world leader in various aspects, including education, technology, and business. In addition, the recent past has witnessed an increase in the production and distribution of popular culture. In a conservative culture where some aspects of dressing, such as miniskirts for women and long hair for men, are banned, the music is used to convey that the country is part of popular culture.

The Artifact’s Characteristics

“Gangnam Style” uses humor to narrate the life of the people of Seoul. The pop track is a song talking about the life of the people from Gangnam, who will never acknowledge their affiliation with the class as they are wannabes and posers. The song presently emphasizes humor for the kind of behavior of these people who try so hard to be what they are not. The song’s content involves a perfect girlfriend who can pose as refined and wild as she desires. It has a signature dancing style that appeals to South Koreans and people from other countries where the song has become popular. In an interview, Psy acknowledged the great expectations of the dance by his fans in Korea, who had been putting pressure on him (Chung-un para 3). Clearly, the song is a production that reflects modern western culture. It is a blend of a fancy dancing style and a Korean language song, with Park Jae-sang as the main singer and dancer.

The song reflects the “Gangnam Style” reaching South Korea after it swept California and Sidney. The dress used in the dance reflects the style inspired by Psy. In addition, the scenes from the video featuring the “Gangnam Style” represent the trendy life of the wannabes in Seoul and other parts of the world where class is represented. Psy can be seen on the video lounging at a place that looks sort of a sandy beach. There are dancers who keep dancing around Psy in the signature dance. As Psy performs the dance, horses can be seen in the stalls, representing the “invisible horse dance” (Chung-un para 4). Evidently, Psy is also be shown in the company of two girls. In essence, the movie’s content completely reflects modernity as manifested in the west.

The Artifact’s Origin

The origin of “Gangnam Style” is associated with life in Seoul. The motivation behind the song is to tell the story of life in this trendy city, likened to life in Beverly Hills and California, where there are lavish and high-class lifestyles. The phrase whose title the song assumes is a Korean neologism (Cooper para 4). In fact, the term refers to the lifestyle associated with the people in this district, as would be found in Beverly Hills in the United States. According to Psy, his aim was to come up with a song and a video that would cause a distraction from the current social and economic problems. He showed a mockery of the high class, as had already been presented in other parts of the world, including the United States and Australia. By and large, the artist produced a video that became an obsession for Koreans in the region and internationally.

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The popularity of the Artifact

The pop song has become highly popular in the world today, being the most-watched video in 2012 when it was released and posted on YouTube (Grein para 2). In general, the new media and popular culture have remained important instrument in modern society that serves various purposes, such as entertainment. The whole issue appears to result from society’s expectations in the modern age. It is clear that today’s world is prepared for whatever piece of pop culture production has a cultural significance. Based on the new media, which is the internet, it is possible for such productions to become popular and spread across the world where “Gangnam Style” is one such production (Chung-un para 4). In essence, the song’s reception has been amazing, becoming popular with individuals, organizations, and groups.

Guinness World Record in September 2012 suggested that the video was the most “liked” on social media, YouTube, while the MTV Europe Music Awards placed it as the Best Video in the same year. Unlike other videos on YouTube, this song became the first one to reach a billion views in December of its release year. Though an unlikely hit, the song became popular in the country, region, and internationally. Besides the one billion views, the song achieved 3.6 million downloads by the close of 2012 (Grein para 2). Above and beyond the videos on social media, the song has also become popular in conventional media. It has only sold more than three million copies in the United States. In this case, the electronic abilities of the video have allowed its popularity across national borders. Moreover, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have driven the reputation of this track. It is worth noting that millions of people have bought the video containing the song worldwide through new media.

The Artifact’s Intercultural Nature

Since the time the song went viral, it has had a lot of influence on pop culture across the world. Music presents how individuals generally follow in their everyday interactions and as influenced by the media and other individuals. These trends have become part of the daily life of individuals and societies from all regions of the world (Jenkins 28). Popular culture consists of different kinds of practices that people engage in as they interact with others. Music is one of these practices, and “Gangnam Style” has become one of these artifacts. The intercultural nature of the song is evident in the mass movement of things. As a matter of fact, ways of life have been, to a great extent, influenced by the new media. While a unique culture characterizes each society or country, there have been movements and interactions of cultures worldwide because of the media.

In fact, through social media and the new media, “Gangnam Style” has become one of the common pop songs across the world. The track has been listened to in over 30 countries, including “Canada, Germany, Australia, UK, France, Spain, Italy, and Russia” (Cooper para 4). The song has spread western culture to all parts of the world. Its signature dance, the “invisible horse dance,” moves became popular in many of the countries where it has been adopted. Particularly, the Korean wave is “a phenomenon that refers to the onslaught of South Korean entertainment in Asia and, more recently, in other parts of the world” (Valerio para 3). In essence, the Korean trend of culture has been felt in other parts of the world, but not as much as the “Gangnam Style has influenced it” the song has been recreated in other cultures, including the United States and outside of Korea.

The song has received phenomenal success internationally. It has become one of the elements of the cultural and national pride of South Korea. Politicians and other influential figures worldwide, including Barrack Obama and Ban Ki-Moon, have been seen performing the dance (Cooper para 6). The song’s success is being utilized to reaffirm the Korean national sense of identity and promote the culture across the world. The tune has become one of the tools for transferring culture across the world, especially due to its reputation as a sort of pop culture, which is the kind that is speaking to the youth of today. Entirely the song speaks to people of different cultures and ethnic groups worldwide singing to the tune.


The discussion has examined the extent to which the “Gangnam Style” has played a role as a tool for transmitting the South Korean arts across cultures. There are various indications of the argument that pop culture has largely influenced other cultures worldwide. In this case, social media and conventional media have played a critical role in using the song to influence other cultures. During the current age of globalization, hip-hop music has become one of the drivers of pop culture in the world. Songs such as the “Gangnam Style” are the tools countries can use to transfer their cultures to the rest of the world. Interestingly, the new media is being used to transfer the culture, which is being received greatly.


Works Cited

Chung-un, Cho. “Hallyu can Help Spread Korean: Minister on The Korea Herald,” 2012, http://nwww.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20120917001083 Accessed 16 Nov 2016

Cooper, Andrew F. “Examining South Korea’s Global (Psy)chology as a mix of High Ambition and a Sensitive Legacy,” Centre for International Governance Innovation, 2012, http://www.cigionline.org/blogs/worlds-of-global-governance/examining-south-koreas. Accessed 16 Nov 2016.

Grein, Paul. “Chart Watch Extra: The Years Top Song,” 2012, http://music.yahoo.com/blogs/chart-watch/chart-watch-extra-top-songs-195035394.html. Accessed 16 Nov 2016.

Jenkins, Henry. Convergence Culture. New York University Press (2006).

Valerio, Anna Patricia. “Catching the Korean Wave.” Bworldonline.com. Business World Publishing Corporation, 20 Sep. 2012, http://www.bworldonline.com/weekender/content.php?id=58793. Accessed on 16 Nov 2016.

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