Back in the nineties, I spent over a month working in South Korea. It was long enough to develop a taste for (or at least an immunity to) the national dish, kimchi. And long enough to understand the Korean character. Or so I thought.
The Koreans are a great people with a proud tradition, strong work ethic and optimistic outlook. They produced leading-edge electronics, reliable cars and ambitious engineering projects. But their pop music was terrible. Really, really awful. So it was a shock for me to discover that the words “Korean”, “rap” and “star” can sit comfortably together in the same sentence.
If you’re not yet familiar with Korean rap star and internet phenomenon, Psy, and his bizarrely catchy hit, Gangnam Style, I’ve included the video below.
Yeah, I know. What to think?
I also hadn’t realised that Koreans have a taste for self parody. And yet, if you’re a tiny country that has spent the past thousand years being almost constantly invaded by much larger, more powerful and warlike neighbours, yet still manage to retain your identity and your nationality, you probably need a really strong sense of humour.
Maybe that’s what Psy teaches us (apart from how not to dance). That laughing at yourself is an essential survival tool in an inhospitable universe.