PSY, the South Korean rapper with the viral hit “Gangnam Style,” apologized on Friday for two performances featuring anti-American lyrics nearly a decade ago. The popularity of the rapper/singer’s video (the most-watched video ever on YouTube since its debut in July with nearly 1 billion hits) landed him a slot Sunday night at “Christmas in Washington,” the annual holiday concert held at the National Building Museum. President Barack Obama and his family attended.
PSY’s apology came after reports were widely circulated about his performances attacking the U.S. and its military policies first in 2002 and again in 2004. In his apology on Friday, PSY emphasized his appreciation for America.
“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 featured in—eight years ago—was part of a deeply emotional reaction to the war in Iraq and the killing of two Korean schoolgirls that was part of the overall antiwar sentiment shared by others around the world at that time. While I’m grateful for the freedom to express oneself, 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.
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 that 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 thru music, our universal language we can all come together as a culture of humanity and I hope that you will accept my apology.”
In 2002, two 13-year-old girls were run over and killed by a U.S. military vehicle. Korean protests called for less U.S. military presence in South Korea, and PSY participated in a concert performance holding a mockup of a tank which he smashed it to pieces with his mic stand.
Two years later in 2004 during the U.S. occupation of Iraq, a jihadist group captured a Christian missionary named Kim Sun-Il, demanding for South Korea to withdraw the country’s 3,000 troops to Iraq as part of the occupying forces. The South Korean government refused to negotiate with terrorists, and the group released a tape of Kim’s execution, telling South Koreans to blame America.
Anti-American activists were angered once again, protesting the terrorists’ actions and as well as the U.S. occupation. A protest concert was held in Seoul where PSY and fellow South Korean rappers performed angry anti-American songs. One song in particular had some urging President Obama to not attend “Christmas in Washington.” PSY performed a song titled “Dear American,” written by South Korean metal band N.E.X.T., that lambasts U.S. military policies; the song’s chorus asks for America to “Stop the War.”
The annual “Christmas in Washington” special, which raised money for the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, aired on TBS Sunday night, and President Obama greeted PSY on stage. In his brief remarks, President Obama said that Christmas is a time to share the blessings we have with those who have less, especially those who are “spending this holiday in a hospital bed, or a shelter, or protecting our freedom on a battlefield far from home.”