The worldwide popularity of "Gangnam Style" by Korean hip-hop singer Psy mirrors the global dominance of US popular culture achieved through revolutions of business model and communication tools.
South Koreans view the global success of the song as a prominent case of Korean cultural worldwide transmission. But the hit piece shouldn't be used to claim that popular cultures of other countries including the Korean one have become more influential than US popular culture. Popular enchantment with "Gangnam Style" is because of its clever use of US popular culture, especially for younger people.
Psy claimed the song was originally produced for local K-pop fans, he intended to create something Korean and its global popularity was totally unexpected. Psy actually raised a question: Why could a song aimed at Koreans go global?
Looking at Psy's resume helps. Psy, born in 1977, is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music in the US and started his career as a singer in 2001. He grew up under the influence of US culture.
Besides, one of the biggest differences between those born in the 1970s and later and previous generations is that they grew up under globalization. On the Internet, the post-1970s generation is vividly described as the first to grow up in front of the TV and to shake their bodies to rock and roll. US culture began to be part of their life and hobbies, and the boundary of national cultures became obscured.
The post-1970s generation reserves some aspects of their traditional and national character. Meanwhile, they move quickly toward absorbing things that are modern and global. The younger generations are fuller embracers of global culture, in which the US has had a dominant role for decades. They drink the same beverages, eat the same fast food, watch the same movies, play the same online games, and even wear the same clothes as each other. Their cultural convergence is much deeper than in previous generations.
The "global village era" generates global musicians like Psy as well as similar global outlooks. Cultural creators and managers should pay more attention to the familiarity of these generations with the global village.
The global fascination with "Gangnam Style" highlights the power of US culture. But it also sheds light on a rising group that shares common cultural consumption tastes and increasingly dominates the global cultural market.
Creators, even if they are from less culturally prominent countries, can find a ready market if they can cater to this group. And cultural managers can see the sensational effects brought by modern Internet technology. An open Internet era encourages creation, and also provides more opportunities for cultural products to spread across the world.
In this sense, Psy is using his unexpected success to provide a new way of cultural transmission.
The author is a senior reporter with the People's Daily. He is now stationed in Bangkok. firstname.lastname@example.org