What makes the Gangnam Style so funny

-Jiarui Zhang

Back in 2012, the music video Gangnam Style by the South Korea rapper Psy became a global hit; it became the first YouTube video to reach 1 billion views and has gone viral on YouTube with more than 730 million views in four months. Psy not only cross over the mainstream of Asian audiences but also capture the Western audiences. The song is catchy, and the video is cut to fit the rhythm perfectly, making the most of the interaction between the two. It is silly, but it is a pure pleasure to watch. But from an academic view, what makes the video so funny?


After the Second World War, South Korea was facing the grave economic problem. The country experienced an economic boom In the 70s and 80s, but it was on the verge of bankruptcy by the end of 20th century. As a result, it is causing the widening gap in wealth. In South Korea, the music video of Gangnam Style is satire at the so-called ‘Gangnam adorer’ – those who try to match the exclusive lifestyle in Gangnam district (which is a wealthy ghetto of Seoul. Class differences are continued to increase in this country, just like they are elsewhere in the world. Expect the sarcasm of social class; many other controversial elements could be seen in the music video, for example, the gender differences, vulgar and tasteless (Cheah and Kim, 2014).

The music video was a local hit in South Korea, and it hit the West by storm after an American rapper shared it with his followers on social media. Among the Western audiences, it breaks the cultural conventions, something similar with the Bollywood movies. It is a pop music video, but Psy is acting with a typical Western pop singer in an entirely different way. Quite a few scenes are unclear and make viewers wonder what is happening? Like when he is dancing with a man in a flashy yellow suit (Hollis, 2012).


A silly dance move and a funny music video, Gangnam Style is a poking fun on South Korean society






Cheah, J. and Kim, G.J.-S. (2014) Theological reflections on ‘Gangnam style’: A racial, sexual, and cultural critique. Basingstoke, United Kingdom: Palgrave Pivot.

Hollis, N. (2012) 10 reasons why Gangnam style became a global hit. Available at: http://www.millwardbrown.com/global-navigation/blogs/post/mb-blog/2012/11/21/10-reasons-why-Gangnam-Style-became-a-global-hit.aspx  (Accessed: 28 February 2017).

officialpsy (2012) PSY – GANGNAM STYLE(강남스타일) M/V. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9bZkp7q19f0  (Accessed: 28 February 2017)

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