The Korean rap/dance sensation Psy, whose “Gangnam Style” song and horse dance video has been watched more than 900 million times on YouTube, is discovering something that performers like the Dixie Chicks and Kanye West discovered long ago: politics and pop don’t mix.
Psy had to issue an apology today after videos were unearthed of the rapper participating in anti-American protests in 2004 while his native South Korea was protesting the 37,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea and also in 2002 protesting South Korea’s decision to send 3,000 troops to Iraq to help the U.S. war effort.
During the 2004 protest of American troops, Psy smashed an American tank onstage. In 2002, he sang an anti-American rap that included the lines “Kill those f—ing Yankees who have been torturing Iraqi captives/Kill those f—ing Yankees who ordered them to torture/Kill their daughters, mothers, daughters-in-law and fathers/Kill them all slowly and painfully.”
In his apology sent to MTV, Psy tried to express his new love for American soldiers—noting that he even performed specifically for soldiers during an appearance on the Tonight Show.
“As a proud South Korean who was educated in the United States and lived there for a very significant part of my life, I understand the sacrifices American servicemen and women have made to protect freedom and democracy in my country and around the world. The song I was featured in — from eight years ago — was part of a deeply emotional reaction to the war in Iraq and the killing of two innocent Korean civilians that was part of the overall antiwar sentiment shared by others around the world at that time,” the statement read. “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 anyone by those words.”
Psy has been stacking cash since the Gangnam phenomenon—which is just an updating of the horse dance that black people have been doing for decades to Sugar Hill Gang’s “Apache” song—hit the United States. According to an analysis by the Associated Press, Psy will earn a reported $8.1 million this year from the song and video, including $870,000 from the ad revenue from 900 million YouTube views (it is the most watched YouTube video of all time), $2.6 million from the song being downloaded 2.9 million times in the U.S. and $4.6 million from Samsung and LG for selling their products in South Korea commercials.
Psy said his music in intended to make people smile, not to offend.
“I have been honored to perform in front of American soldiers in recent months — including an appearance on the Jay Leno show specifically for them — and I hope they and all Americans can accept my apology,” the statement concluded. “While it’s important we express our opinions, I deeply regret the inflammatory and inappropriate language I used to do so. In my music I try to give people a release, a reason to smile. I have learned that through music, our universal language we can all come together as a culture of humanity and I hope that you will accept my apology.”