The music video Gangnam Style by Korean pop star Park Jae Sung (aka Psy) has amassed an amazing 275 million hits on YouTube. It has taken the Guinness World Record for the most likes ever on a YouTube video. It is the definition of a video going viral. The singer is now destined to become rich. The song has hit number 1 over Europe and has spawned an army of imitators including Britney Spears. The most unlikely fall out for the song is its provocative nature. Well provocative for Bangkok gangsters.
A ruckus broke out on September 22nd 2012 when 2 teenage gangs faced off in a nightclub in Ekamai in Sukhumvit. Two teenage gangs started doing the trademark gangnam style dance at each other, provoking each other. It was, in the words of a South Park Episode, ‘on’. The ‘dance off’ led to insults being exchanged. One group promptly left the night club only to return at 6am with guns. They started firing in the air. They left and 2 more gang members came back a further 2 hours later to do some more shooting in the air.
In all 50 rounds of ammunition were used according to Bangkok police reports. None of the youths involved were caught but warrants are out for their arrest. Although innocent bystanders ran for their lives, no one was injured. The bizarre story is part of a growing youth violence problem in Bangkok where gangs from rival schools fight for the honour of their school with knives, guns and even homemade grenades. This youth gang warfare scene is a recruiting ground for the Bangkok mafia.
It is similar in a way to the motorcycle gangs of Japan, the bosozoku that provide the foot soldiers for the yakuza families.
The humour of this particular gang story is that the gangnam dance is ridiculous. It is a simulation of horse riding. The words of the song are about spoiled rich girls from the upper class area in Seoul, Korea called Gangnam. It is clearly meant as a parody and a satire of the rich in Korea.
The singer, Psy is an overweight minor celebrity who clearly realizes he is not a sex symbol. In the video he wears a loud green jacket and black pants with his love handles hanging over. In short he is an Asian geek.
I suspect that this is the subliminal appeal for Thai and Asian youth. Here is an Asian pop star that is bigger and brasher than his Western counterparts. He is parading his Asian geekness in an unashamed fashion; so much so that it is cool. A K-pop song has never done well in the West before. It is something to be proud of.
The governor of Bangkok recently concluded an outdoor rally with a few steps of the iconic gangnam dance. When politicians realize the appeal of a popular fad we should pay attention. Gangnam style might not stick around for long, but the notion of Asian pop heroes has proved not only a potential vote winner but also the perfect outlet for Thai machismo.
The video is at the start of this article; see for yourself.