South Korean Culture Ministry To Honor Psy

5:26 PM PST 11/07/2012 by Lee Hyo-won
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The pop sensation will receive the prestigious Okgwan Order of Cultural Merit for his "contribution to increasing the world’s awareness of Korean pop music and ensuing interest in Korea."

Gangnam Style sensation Psy will receive the prestigious state orders of cultural merit this year, along with nine other laureates, according to South Korea’s culture ministry.

The chubby rapper, whose horse-riding dance moves have become  a global phenomenon, will be awarded the Okgwan Order of Cultural Merit for his “contribution to increasing the world’s awareness of Korean pop music and ensuing interest in Korea,” the ministry said in a press release.The Okgwan is the fourth highest order out of five bestowed by the ministry.

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Psy, whose real name is Park Jae-sang, shot to international stardom when his  Gangnam Style  video became a sensation on YouTube, eventually logging over 654 million views. It is the second most watched YouTube video of all time after Justin Bieber’s Baby. The song has also topped charts from the United Kingdom to Australia and currently occupies the number two slot on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 for the seventh consecutive week.

Very few pop artists have ever been decorated by the ministry. Past recipients Lee Mija  and Cho Yong-pil were both veteran singers with careers spanning over 30 years.

“Psy has been chosen to be decorated for several reasons, including being a long-term artist (he's survived over 10 years in Korea’s fast-changing K-pop industry) and also for advertising Gangnam,” a cultural ministry official said. 

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Meanwhile, the ministry will give the Eungwan Order of Cultural Merit, the second highest order, to filmmaker Kim Ki-duk, 52, who recently won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival with Pieta. Kim is considered one of Korea's foremost art house directors, having won awards at Cannes, Venice and Berlin.

Pieta received favorable reviews for its harrowing depiction of a ruthless debt collector, who undergoes a spiritual transformation when he meets a woman claiming to be his mother.

The news of the honors is creating a buzz in South Korea since  both Psy and Kim have long been considered maverick artists, and each has at one point or another been at odds with the Korean government.

In 2007 Psy was involved in a notorious case involving the compulsory two-year military service for Korean men.The rapper had to re-enter the army that year, as he was deemed to have breached terms of his service in 2003-2005. 

Kim on the other hand has long been called  the enfant terrible of the local film industry. He openly criticized the government  in last year's Arirang, a controversial autobiographical documentary that won best picture  in Cannes' Un Certain Regard section.

Other recipients of the cultural orders include prominent TV drama writer Kim Soo-hyeon, veteran singer Song Chang-shik and actress Na Moon-hee. Laureates will be honored at a ceremony slated for Nov. 19.

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