Psy Fans Gallop To Gangnam District (And Why I’m Not Happy About It)

Thursday, January 24, 2013


You might assume that most global citizens have had enough of Psy, the infamous rapper who, if he didn’t invent his signature “gallop” dance, certainly resurrected it. You may think this genius of a man has been transformed into something even more obsolete than a teeny-bopper’s “so over” description: gasp, a meme.

Though Psy has garnered a record-breaking billion-plus YouTube views for his hit “Gangnam Style,” in a world of rapid turnover, this international superstar is a little dated, at least in the United States. However, in his home country of South Korea, Psy’s influence still reigns — even if his signature song isn’t constantly blared in every club, as was mandatory in Stateside bars when the song first caught on.

Love him or hate him, Psy has sparked worldwide interest in South Korea. What previously resided in American minds as North Korea’s progressive older sibling, South Korea is increasingly regarded as a bona fide hotspot for experiencing K-pop culture and luxury beyond what Las Vegas has to offer, particularly in Seoul’s storied Gangnam neighborhood.

“In Gangnam’s Apgujeong neighbourhood, K-pop stars are delivered to their entertainment companies’ headquarters in gleaming black Hyundai Starex people-movers with tinted windows,” notes the Sydney Morning Herald, “while Seoul’s super-rich worship at the flashy temples of luxury fashion lining a boulevard of dreams dubbed ‘yuppie street.’”

Endless mounds of fun seem to be had in Seoul. In the SMH article, the Gangnam District is described as home to trendy clubs to which only sub-30, super-rich glamazons may enter, karaoke-fueled bars and non-negotiable shots of soju paired with silkworm larvae snacks. Frankly, a Friday night in Seoul’s Gangnam District seems like a night I would like to experience at least once in my life. Of course I would be armed with a fistful of cash, an outfit akin to a disco ball and a well-rehearsed K-pop song primed for karaoke. When in Rome, right?

But there’s something about Seoul’s newfound attraction that’s unsettling. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth — what I imagine to be the flavor of silkworm larvae.

Are we so blind to the interesting, unique parts of the world that a stupid (there, I said it) pop song is the catalyst that places it on our radar? I confess, I didn’t give Seoul — let alone Gangnam — much thought prior to viewing Psy’s video an embarrassing number of times.

I suppose this phenomenon is nothing new. After Editor-in-Chief Matt Stabile’s favorite book by Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love, was published, Bali experienced a surge in tourism by “mostly 40-something female travelers who’ve arrived looking for their own spiritual enlightenment and time to put in on their own soon-to-be bestsellers,” as an earlier article on The Expeditioner reports. Likewise, Seoul had 11.1 million visitors in 2012, “a figure that was up 13.4 percent on 2011,” according to the country’s Culture Minister.

Maybe Seoul is the new Mecca for techno-loving, wealthy club kids. Let’s not forget that people have been traveling to far flung places they’ve never heard of on the basis of an idea and a somewhat-trusted tip. For example, The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy spurred a massive increase in travel to New Zealand. The Oregon Trail, the California Gold Rush, Columbus’s New World — this is not a new story.

So perhaps it’s unwarranted to be frustrated by this wave of Gangnam tourism. I implore you, book a flight if you wish. But for the sake of your own pride, at the very least, tell family and friends you’re going there for the culture — not to learn the gallop dance.

By Jenna Blumenfeld


About the Author

Jenna Blumenfeld, (Jenna Ogden Blumenfeld when she’s in really big trouble) hails from the wee state of Connecticut. Although her childhood dream of becoming a bug doctor — with a specialization in ladybugs — has gone unfulfilled, she is content writing about travel, cuisine and culture. A vegetarian, she currently resides in the food hub of Boulder, Colorado. Read more of her food-centric writing at

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