On the eve of his planned performance at a “Christmas in Washington” concert—which President and Michelle Obama are scheduled to attend—the Korean pop sensation PSY is facing renewed attention to past protests of American military involvement overseas.
In 2002, after two South Korean girls were accidentally struck and killed by an American tank, PSY appeared at a protest concert and smashed a tank on stage. Two years later, after a South Korean missionary was kidnapped and beheaded by extremists in Iraq, PSY again performed at a protest, this time reportedly rapping lyrics which have been translated into English like so:
Kill those fucking Yankees who have been torturing Iraqi captives
Kill those fucking Yankees who ordered them to torture
Kill their daughters, mothers, daughters-in-law and fathers
Kill them all slowly and painfully
For obvious reasons, this performance in particular has stoked some belated anger in the U.S., and there is now speculation that his performance at the concert in Washington in Sunday could be cancelled. Others have suggested that these lines, particularly in context, are no worse than lyrics sung by Chris Brown, Eminem, and other controversial performers.
In the U.S., of course, PSY has only recently become well known, and he has until now had a squeaky clean public persona here. At the very least, that persona will no longer be quite so simple.
Update: PSY has released a statement, printed in full below.
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 was 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 one’s self, 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.