Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you can’t have missed the South Korean pop sensation Psy’s “Gangnam Style” video. It’s rocketed over 250 million views online and broken Guinness records for most likes on YouTube. The song and video are a parody of the stylish and opulent Gangnam district of Seoul, and it’s fame and subject matter have made it the topic of much discussion. Among these is Euny Hong’s fascinating look into growing up in the district as a child.
As long term readers will know I am interested by language and specifically languages that don’t have words that others do. So, one thing that leapt out at me from Hong’s piece was this:
South Korea had no irony when I arrived there. I can say that as plainly as I can say that it had no McDonald’s (it arrived in 1988, in Gangnam, of course). The Korean language has no word for irony, nor for “parody,” which is why the Korean press has been using the English word “parody” to describe Gangnam Style.
I wonder how telling it is (as Hong alludes to) that there is no word for ‘parody’ in Korean, and that to describe this recent phenomenon they’ve had to draft in the English word. Does it tell us something about their society?
And for good measure, here’s the good man himself with his catchy little ditty