Psy, the South Korean rapper whose viral pop hit “Gangnam Style” has been viewed more than 900 million times on YouTube, participated in two anti-American performances about a decade ago, a story that finally trickled into English-language media this week. The K-Pop star quickly issued a public apology.
“Kill those f------ Yankees who have been torturing Iraqi captive / Kill those f------- Yankees who ordered them to torture / Kill their daughters, mothers, daughters-in-law, and fathers / Kill them all slowly and painfully,” Psy sang at a 2004 concert in South Korea, held in protest of the United States and its military.
The lyrics are not his — the song, “Dear American,” is by South Korean metal band N.E.X.T. — but the performance is in stark contrast to the smiling, good-natured pop star that Americans have been introduced to over the past six months.
The performances that have gotten Psy — the 34-year-old whose real name is Park Jae-sang — in trouble come from a time when he, like others of his generation in South Korea, was caught up in a wave of anti-Americanism, driven by complicated cultural and political circumstances, including the Iraq War and a 2002 incident in which a U.S. military vehicle struck and killed two 14-year-old girls walking along the side of a road outside Seoul.
“While I’m grateful for the freedom to express one’s self, I’ve learned there are limits to what language is appropriate and I’m deeply sorry for how these lyrics could be interpreted. I will forever be sorry for any pain I have caused by those words,” Psy said in a statement released Friday afternoon.
A Gallup poll at the time found that 75 percent of 20-something Koreans said they disliked or hated Americans. Many charged that the United States was making South Korea its pawn. Psy’s 2002, gold-faced performance was, for all its shock value when seen in isolation, nothing atypical of the year’s backlash. More protests erupted in 2004 because of South Korea’s support of the Iraq War and the widely held view that America pulled the country into the conflict against its will.
In his apology on Friday, Psy mentioned the U.S. military he has previously spoken out against.
“I have been honored to perform in front of American soldiers in recent months ... and I hope they and all Americans can accept my apology.”