Monday, December 10, 2012

to forgive PSY, or not to forgive?

There's plenty of moiling commentary in the Koreablogosphere about whether Americans should accept Korean rapper PSY's apology (mentioned earlier here). I'm in the "forgive and forget" camp, but some Americans are, not without reason, upset at PSY's racist and anti-soldier sentiments from a decade ago. One particular complaint has surfaced repeatedly: PSY didn't make a public apology-- his publicist did. I don't see that this makes much difference: PSY put his imprimatur on the apology, so the apology will always be associated with him. It's legitimate to ask why PSY didn't apologize earlier, but I'm not that exercised: in global terms, PSY and his attitude are about as consequential as a gnat. While a part of me understands the need, among some Americans, to throw Korea's habitual "Your apology isn't sincere enough" rhetoric back in its face (Koreans often cry foul whenever Japan apologizes for a past wrong), I also don't feel the need to pursue the issue any further than this blog post. As some commentators have noted, the American public has forgiven much worse from its own pop-culture luminaries (Ice T's "Cop Killer" among them: the rapper went from raging against cops to playing one on TV). PSY is small potatoes, not worth the animus.

UPDATE: Mike Hurt at the Metropolitician takes the opposite view, and makes good points, especially here, in the final paragraph of his post:

People should realize that the Korean apology, as it functions in South Korea, is very much a superficial protection of "face" after having violated a social norm or rule of social relationships. It is very "regretful" [sic-- Mike actually means "regrettable"] to have been caught, but it is also not an expression of actual sorrow nor is it a sign of meaningful introspection, but merely something that is expected after being caught doing something considered to be negative given one's social role, an apology given quickly and easily. And in this case, after having been thrust, much to his own surprise, into the international spotlight and gaining millions of American fans, Psy's hand has been caught in the proverbial cookie jar, and he has to apologize in order to save face, but also save the prospects of continued popularity and financial gain.



  1. I may be missing something here, but where has Psy "said" anything out of his own mouth in either Korean or English that constitutes an apology? Until I see the video of him taking responsibility with his own words, a highly-polished written statement from the desk of his publicist in order to keep the money pouring in doesn't exactly cut it for the truly horrific views he "said" with his own mouth.

    A verbal apology goes a lot farther in expressing one's true self (just ask Hugh Grant), than one written, with no other emotion than greed, by the offender's highly-paid handler/stooge in the name of the offender.

  2. A straight answer, John:

    Did PSY approve the publicist's message or not?



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