“Ganganam style” aka that weird Korean youtube video and song everyone is talking about online right now! 

What does Gangnam Style even mean? What’s a “Gangnam”?  Why is this popular? Let’s talk look at it right now~

Gangnam style is the newest single by Korean artist PSY 싸이, an upbeat and extremely catchy song about the Gangnam-style boy who is searching for his ideal Gangnam-style girl.  This sort of girl likes to be classy and sip coffee at an overpriced cup of coffee by day, but let her hair down party by night.

The song hit #1 on the Gaon Chart immediately after its release on July 15th, 2012 and had remained at the #1 position for over 5 weeks as of this posting.

♥ ♥ Watch the music video HERE if you have missed out on this sensation! ♥ ♥

PSY’s real name is Park Jae-Sang 박재상 and he has been active in the Korean music industry since around 2001 under the label of mainly “Rap” here. He speaks fluent English, which is not surprising since he attended Boston University and Berklee College of Music for his education.

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On top of his work as PSY, he has also written music and lyrics for many successful groups here in Korea over the years in-between his own album releases.

DJ DOC– 난 이런 사람이야 (I’m this kind of person)  |  Lexi– 애니멀 (Animal)  |  신화 (ShinHwa) – 위하여 (Cheers)

Tony Ahn – Top Star  |   Oolala Session– 아름다운 밤 (Beautiful night)

are all very notable and popular singles he worked on, the list goes on much longer~ but these are just a few examples fans of K-pop may be familiar with!  His own singles have has success through the years and his work is known for having a fun tone to it sometimes, so really “Gangnam Style” is not that surprising for fans of PSY’s other albums I am sure.

One other bit of info on PSY is that his career shining right now is very lucky considering he has been involved in scandals and drama here that have killed other singer + actors careers in Korea. In 2001 he was arrested for possession of marijuana and was fined 500 million won, this drug is a minor offense most places, but a very big deal in Korea and even prison time can be handed out if you are caught with enough.

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Despite that bad press he overcame the bump in the road and was doing well till his required 2-year ROK military service that all Korean men must serve. In 2005 he was given a cushy desk job exempting him from the normal training, but apparently he was grossly neglecting his job (and apparently making money on the side which is a no-no while you do the service here) so after his 2 years of required service was ALMOST finished, the court ruled against him and made him repeat those two years all over again!

After all that mess he returned to the scene in 2010 and started back up where he left off, and thankfully for PSY the public welcomed him back with open arms. I was unfamiliar with his work, but I knew him from the Military drama because it was big news when it happened a few years ago because he tried to fight the charges!


Why is Gangnam Style all I hear about lately??? Perhaps it was all the catchy horse gallop dancing, the simple “gangnam stye, hey sexy lady” chorus, or just the overall wackiness of the video~ for some reason PSY’s newest song and music video “Gangnam Style” completely blew up online internationally with youtubers!  In just 41 days the video on his official account has jumped over the 50 million view mark which is record time. Mainstream news overseas like CNN and ABC have also covered this explosion of Gangnam love, bringing in new watchers every day and giving PSY a healthy dose of international recognition that he surely deserves.

Here in Korea his popularity is still going strong, PSY has been around for many years (this is his 6th album) so his return has been glorious to say the least.  Even though the song has been out for over a month and should be dying down at this point,  you can not make it a day without hearing the chorus in a store around Edae, Hongdae, yeah even Gangnam… it follows you everyplace and soaks into your brain.

Psy posters plastered over Seoul a few weeks before the single came out

Koreans on the street and in the cafes are all talking about PSY a lot this week, Nara and I could hear conversations about him all weekend while we were out~ Korea loves it when something gets international recognition, so as long as the foreigners love Gangnam style we are going to keep hearing about it here.

Dancing in front of the 한국종합무역센터  Korea World Trade Center which is visible from the Han river where a lot of this video takes place.

So what the heck does “Oppan Gangnam style” mean?

Gangnam is basically the “Rich” area of Seoul, so when someone says they live in Gangnam or the hang out in that area you immediately have a certain perception of them.  The girls are skinny, from good families, usually have had a bit of plastic surgery, often study abroad, well dressed, with just a dash of sexy and sophistication who want a boyfriend with the same style and background in a fancy car.  That is the stereotypical Gangnam youth.

 Maybe a good comparison would be Beverly Hills since you can get the same immediate mental images, so when he says he is “Gangnam style” he wants a girl that is “Gangnam style“~ wealthy, classy, and that kind of hip yet refined person that is associated with the area.  He is looking for a Gangnam style girl, kind of like in English when you say “I am a Whiskey man” because you enjoy Whiskey. Oppa likes Gangnam style girls.

What about the “Oppa / Oppan” part? In the Korean language you have male and female words that you use for people older than you, “Oppa” is what a girl can use to refer to a boy older than her. In English it translates to “older brother”, however its use is not limited to just a brother by blood~ cousins, classmates, friends, and even boyfriends can be called “Oppa”.  Usually boys love being called “Oppa” by girls because it is often used as a cute and affectionate term so most girlfriends do refer to their boyfriends as such.

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I remember in language class one of the guys was disturbed by the fact that someone he was dating could call him “Oppa Brother” and her family member “Oppa Brother” and it was not considered weird or icky. lol it is just one of those things, Oppas take care of you.

The “Oppan” extra “n” in the lyrics is a shortened version of  Neun 은/는 which is what you use to mark the topic in a sentence~ so instead of “Oppa neun Gangnam style” we get just “Oppan Gangnam style“.  In English I would translate this as basically “Oppa’s Gangnam style” or “I (your Oppa, so he is talking to a girl) am Gangnam style” Got it?

So why is this song so funny? Just because it is a silly video right?

PSY says he is a classy smooth guy who can drink his hot coffee in “One shot” and wants a girl that can be that beautiful proper lady, but also let her hair down and be that sexy girl at the club.  These are enjoyable lyrics to listen to and the song is very catchy, but it is not exactly funny if you actually read what they mean.  What IS funny is the visuals of the music video because PSY is singing the whole time how he is into “Gangnam style“, but he is so NOT  “Gangnam style” at all. He has on a slick tacky suit, sunglasses, dances around foolishly, and is hanging out in the wrong places to meet that sort of woman he dreams of.

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The song itself was an instant hit as soon as it launched, but what has kept it alive all of these weeks has been the humor of the related music videos I think~ It has definitely given the single a push.

He walks with a sexy strut~~~under the bridges of Gangnam with the blowing trash

Pampers himself in a sauna~~~where only Korean Mafia gangsters go.

Relaxes in the sun at the beach~~~only it is actually a children’s playground with sand

Goes boating on the Han river~~~in a dirty old boat named “Arirang” in the middle of the tacky rental swan boats.

Takes a few laps in the pool~~~only it is in a public bath house tub

Horseback riding~~~on a merry go round

Partying~~~with old ladies on a typical tacky tour bus here. I have been on one, they sing Karaoke and everything haha

and pretty much just creeping around the Han river at all the girls working out.

He never really hits the hip or posh areas of Gangnam, that is why it is so funny~

In the end he meets his dream “Gangnam girl” but actually on the train

PSY stated with most of the imagery in the video he wanted to make people laugh and just obviously have a good time.

Not everyone can live the high class Gangnam lifestyle here in Korea, so most people can get some chuckles at the attempts of this poor guy trying to say “I’m so Gangnam, look at me!” when he is clearly not~ mocking the silly lavish lifestyle and posers associated with that area a bit.

♥ Gangnam Style Cameos ♥

Another thing that added to the videos success (I think) were the cameo appearances placed throughout…

The adorable dancing mini PSY is  Hwang Minwoo 황민우 a popular contestant from Korea’s got talent this year~  he is just 7, can you believe it??  He has made appearances on several shows since his debut, you can click the link in his name to see one appearance he made recently.

The happy thrusting elevator man is comedian Noh Hong-Cheol known for his work on Muhan Dojeon무한도전 (Infinite Challenge) doing his trademark “Nasty Dance” which is kind of his thing around here.

Apparently his appearance in the video was unplanned, he stopped by the shooting to visit PSY and ended up getting roped in to participating. lol

The old men playing a traditional game of Janggi 장기 (a familiar site in areas of Korea like parks) are Seungri and Daesung, members from the hugely popular K-pop group Big Bang

The super fly Gangnam boy who dance battles Psy in the yellow suit is beloved comedian and host Mc Yoo Jae-Seok who is known for his work on the popular show Muhan Dojeon무한도전 (Infinite Challenge) as well as the variety show Running Man among others.

The attractive girl Psy meets dancing in the subway is the lovely K-pop idol Hyun-A who is a former member of Wonder Girls and a current member of  4Minute and Trouble Maker. She is also a solo artist, Hyun-A‘s single “Bubble Pop” was pretty much on a loop all last year around Seoul so I knew her immediately from that lol!

The newest dance craze and Meme~ PSY Horse Gallop!

Everyone do the Gangnam style 말춤 Horse Dance!

PSYs dance in this video has really caught on here in Korea, it has been spotted at sports games, in clubs, even on the street when the song comes on you may catch a guy do a little gallop and laugh with his friends~ It is simple and fun so right now everyone is doing it for laughs it seems. This sort of dancing is called 막춤 mak-choom in Korea~ “Mak” means absolutely random with no purpose or intention and “Choom” is dance.

horse dance > photo bomb

Mak-choom usually refers to silly dances that imitate certain actions or animals, so in Gangnam style‘s case it is being on horseback galloping away.  The dance is appropriately called 말춤 or “horse dance” here in Korea.

Shocking, yes I know.

PSY’s Surprise Gangnam Style Concert in Gangnam!

On Aug 14th PSY held a surprise concert at the Gangnam 4-way street 강남 사거리…very fitting for his new single!

Nara happened to come upon the chaos by accident while he went to meet a friend at Gangnam station. When they arrived and tried to walk the stairway to enter the street they could not exit due to all the people~ it was a madhouse!  This photo he snapped from the cafe across the street shows that the crows extended all down the streets not even in proper view of the main concert, everyone wanted to go and the turnout was completely unexpected I am sure!

PSY has done concerts like this in the past at certain areas, but for this one even though they only announced it that morning apparently a shocking 30,000 people showed up!  It was completely packed with people and caused a total madhouse around the subway stations and the traffic was pretty much blocked off from all the crowds! It started to rain a bit, but that did not stop the masses from coming out. People stayed outside and it became a crazy giant massive cluster party of sorts, and when he finally played his hit single “Gangnam style” the whole crowd began to do the Psy horse gallop!

Normally I would have raced out to try and catch it, but I was home having a slumber party with Nara’s young cousins and making cupcakes while we watched Avatar hehe so I could not leave that night.  If he has another public show like this I will be sure to attend though, I want to see the crowd horse dance (*_*)  Music trends boom here on and off all year (last year everyone was laughing at the song “Iteawon Freedom” ) but this is the largest scale collective Korean love for a song that have ever seen personally. People here really love PSY and seem to really support his success a lot, which is really great for him since he does not fit the typical star mold here at all.

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Due to his success with the international viewers of youtube, he was flown out to the USA a few times for “talks” and made a few appearances, hope this is the start of something great for him… or at least profitable.  Reports are saying he is set to make total about 10 million off of this success, with 10 CM deals signed as of this posting~  This is a huge amount for Korean pop stars!


♥ Music Video on PSY’s official youtube channel ♥

♥ Behind the scenes~ Making of “Gangnam style” ♥

♥ PSY’s brief (but interesting) English interview with ABC News ♥

♥ Video of “Gangnam style” surprise live concert in Gangnam ♥

♥ Hyun-A official spinoff single with PSY “오빤 딱 내 스타일 Oppa’s just my style”♥

What do you think about the viral video and song “Gangnam style”? Do you like it, or just find it funny? Did you learn something interesting while reading my post? Please comment below!!

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29 Responses to “Oppa’s Gangnam Style 강남 스타일”

  • Custom avatar betty:

    I absolutely enjoyed this video and really enjoy what wrote about it too. Have you heard the “misheard” English lyrics video? I can now try to sing this at karaoke by memorizing the misheard English lyrics. Haha.


    • Elle:

      omg O_O that guy needs to not quit his day job.
      I found the “Gundam Style”one pretty funny tho~ they have so many parodies now that I was thinking I may do a dedicated post just to some of the good ones when I have some time! The My little pony one is also pretty awesome (aside from the fact they put a Chinese character on the pony’s ass for some reason *_* “甲” would have made more sense for PSY’s album)

  • hahahahahaha oh my god! This song is like my soundtrack during the three weeks I stayed in Seoul, I heard this song everywhere, as in EVERY-LITTLE-WHERE (which isn’t really a word, I know) like when I rode the bus, shopping in random shops in dongdaemun, namdaemun, or even hongdae and edae… with that said, I mean even in the class! :O hahaha…

    and oh gosh, I didn’t know the old guys were Seungri and Dae! Hahahahah… xD

  • thank you for such a well-written and researched post Elle! such a funny song. please indeed do the parody post you mentioned <3

  • Wow! It makes it so much more amazing to know all this! And by amazing i mean more tolerable. Lol. I like it, don’t get me wrong, but the kpoppers on my twitter are whining about it and Justin bieber possibly doing a collaboration with Psy.

    • Elle:

      hahaha I know what you mean, trust me lol. Yeah, that is so weird about the Beiber X PSY thing… Seems like he is looking for attention and was like “Omg this is popular, lemme latch on FAST” or something. I know I have not heard that kids name in almost 3 years since he became a proper teen *_* PSY’s english is very good though, he should do an english cover by himself.

  • Custom avatar Courtney:

    Heeeeeey SEXY LADY~

    I tried avoiding the video. Not because I didn’t want to do what everyone else was doing, more like because I have this game where I try to avoid certain internet things that go viral for the sole purpose of seeing how long I can last. When I went to the 2NE1 concert down in LA, Gangnam Style’s video was played before the concert, so my 5 week streak came to an end!

    But I LOVE the video! I’ve seen PSY’s work before on TV (we have some Korean channels here, and I love me some dramas and variety shows!) so I almost broke down and watched it earlier a few times because I wanted to see how silly the video was. I heard he was in a military scandal from a coworker, but I didn’t know exactly what. Thanks for clarifying that. And I was curious about all the cameos, so thanks for breaking that down, too!

    This was a great explanation of the video, one I think many people will enjoy. 😀

    • Elle:

      aw so glad I could fill you in on a few bits! hahaha well you made it 5 weeks, that is pretty good considering how this thing has been plastered EVERYPLACE online… the internet reaction is more annoying vs what I have to deal with here in Seoul! Hope you had fun at the concert 😀 I saw some pics people tweeted and it looked awesome!

  • Custom avatar Nadia:

    Very complete research on PSY 🙂 I said it once when I posted his song, the funny thing about this video is he is more of a Gangbuk style rather than Gangnam style ㅋㅋ

  • Custom avatar Ashley:

    His video is my favorite thing on the internet right now lol
    I love this write up you did, it’s so well done.
    It’s nice to know what popular stuff is actually about.

    • Elle:

      Thank you! Haha yeah, it is one of those things that is goofy just watching as-is, but it helps to know why it is funny to Koreans too I guess 😀

  • Custom avatar Mimi:

    Hi Elle! I just recently came upon your blog and after hours of going through your past posts (I went back about 40 pages), I think it’s safe to say I’m addicted! I’ve really been enjoying the content of your posts, and I appreciate that they’re always so thoughtful and well written. 🙂 Even this post about PSY answered some of the questions I had about his video/song, so…uh, thanks for that? Ha.

    I’ll definitely continue to visit here for as long as you post! <3

    (Also, super belated, but congrats on your engagement! I watched the video of your proposal months ago on Youtube and I might have cried a tear…or two! The two of you are seriously adorable and so lucky to have each other!)

    • Elle:

      Aw thank you so much!! I am so happy you enjoyed the other posts as well, I just started the blog this March so I have been posting a bunch to get lots of content on here fast for people searching and all that XD It makes me really happy to know when something is actually useful though ♥ I still have so many things to share, so I hope you will continue to enjoy them 😉 Now that I have a reason to kinda explore it has made me discover a lot of interesting new things and places this year.

      Also, thank you on the congrats! Ahh I cant believe that was back in Feb, this year really flew by *__*

  • Oh nos! I think he’s getting very popular, just saw this article about him on CNN a couple of days ago. I haven’t seen the video at all, I got to check it out after this comment. And by the way, your post are always awesome as ever keep it up. Totally enjoy going back here all the time keeps me updated with the cutest things on Korea.

  • That’s great hearing a good explanation of it! I saw a short clip of it on the news and totally didn’t get it. Your explanation of it will make viewing the whole thing much more funny!

  • Custom avatar Shiho_DulceMau:

    Ahahahahahha!!! So funny!!
    Many thanks for explaining all the references in the video! It made it so much enjoyable and extra funny to watch 😀

  • Custom avatar caz:

    ha I must watch this!!

  • Custom avatar zahra(^_^):

    Ur The Best

  • Custom avatar Lillian:

    Thanks, I hadn’t read that those are Big Bang members 😀 Funny.

    P. S. It’s Berklee for the college of music, spelled differently from UC Berkeley.

  • This is so informative! ^^ There’s tons of stuff in here I didn’t know! 🙂

    Like…I had no idea Psy wrote 아름다운 밤~ I love that song to bits~~

  • I love your Gangnam post! I had read about what the different parts in the video make reference to, but you actually went and explained who was who in the cameos, which I was super curious about.
    Breaking down all the info of the video into little chunks was great! Now I can know everything about Gangnam style!

    **gallops away**

  • Custom avatar AYK:

    Love the oppa vs. oppan explanation, thanks!

  • Custom avatar ching lee wau:

    THEY ALL WANT THE D!!!!!!!!!

  • Custom avatar Stefania:

    This is pretty weird… Because I never read any of it… O.O it was way to small and long… But I still love his song… It’s AWESOME!!! 🙂 😀 XD xD

  • Custom avatar Danielle:

    Nice! I find the song catchy. But I really enjoyed learning what the song actually meant in a cultural aspect, and not just a viral sensation or catchy song. 🙂

  • Gangnam took the world by storm, awsome video, awsome track!

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