His video is the most watched in YouTube history and in a short few months he’s risen to household-name status in America, but a decade before PSY unleashed “Gangnam Style” he was known for his fiery opposition to the Iraq War and the U.S. military’s presence in Korea.
PSY (real name Park Jae-sang) has gone into damage control mode and apologized Friday for using “inflammatory and inappropriate language” during popular protests earlier in his career.
In 2002, he joined a rally concert to decry the deaths of two Korean schoolgirls in an accident with an American military vehicle. The then-25 year old singer belted a song called “Killer” and held up a “plastic model of an armored vehicle and smashed the plastic prop onto the floor,” according to the Korea Herald. He reportedly further pulvarized to model with his microphone stand to the “thunderous roar of agreement and excitement from the audience, mostly teens.”
Two years later he lent his vocals to a hard-edged protest song called “Dear American” in response to the murder of a South Korean missionary in Iraq. The context is important: An Islamist group videotaped the beheading of missionary Kim Sun-il after the South Korean government refused to cancel plans to send 3,000 troops to aid the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq. What followed was widespread protests across the country, one of which PSY performed “Dear American” with the Korean metal group N.EX.T.
In the song, PSY rapped, “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.”
Calling his words a “deeply emotional reaction” to the war and civilian deaths, PSY now acknowledges “there are limits to what language is appropriate and I’m deeply sorry for how these lyrics could be interpreted.”
Sensing the brewing scandal — which threatens to harm his until now-sterling reputation in America — PSY quickly issued a statement to MTV News on Friday:
“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.
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. 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 though music, our universal language we can all come together as a culture of humanity and I hope that you will accept my apology.”
This scandal could potentially cause problems for President Barack Obama. PSY is scheduled to perform alongside Diana Ross and Scotty McCreery during the annual “Christmas in Washington” special, which airs Dec. 21 on TNT. The holiday show is traditionally attended by the President and First Lady.