Psy Headlines South Korea’s Presidential Inauguration Ceremony

Psy Korean Presidential Inauguration 2013 H

“I know this is a very formal event, but if you could please stand up and join me for the horse dance, it would be great,” the global K-pop phenomenon said by way of self-introduction.

SEOUL -- Park Geun-hye was sworn in as the first female president of South Korea on Monday, and the festive inauguration ceremony wouldn’t have been complete without the country’s most famous pop star: Psy.

The globetrotting singer, who recently appeared in Brazil and Turkey to perform his infectious “Gangnam Style,” made sure to clear his schedule for the occasion. Even though the 35-year-old had refused to grant Park -- or any other former presidential candidates -- the right to use his number as her campaign song (he didn’t want his music to be used for political ends, his agency YG Entertainment had said), he expelled any doubts about whether he would attend the big event when he signed on as headliner.

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For the ceremony held in front of Seoul’s National Assembly, Psy appeared in a more understated version of his signature blinged-out formal wear: a sleek black tuxedo, white-framed sunglasses, and similarly monochrome Oxford shoes.

Psy rapped enthusiastically on “Champion,” an upbeat song saying “you are a champion” (some fans might remember how ni-ga, the recurring Korean word for “you are,” was once misinterpreted as the derogatory N-word in English) that made him a national star during the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup. 

“Last year, ‘Gangnam Style’ allowed me to experience something of a miracle. As a Korean citizen, I sincerely wish that, with the beginning of a new administration, everyone can have their own miracle and luck,” said the singer, announcing his next song. “I know this is a very formal event, but if you could please stand up and join me for the horse dance, it would be great.”

He soon had the entire crowd of some 89,000 Korean attendees on their feet and smiling for a collective rendition of his famous horse dance (even the new head-of-state showcased the iconic sequence, wrist action and all, during her presidential campaign last year).

Other stars who took part in the festivities include internationally renowned soprano Sumi Jo, gugak (traditional Korean music) master Kim Duk-soo, veteran pop artist Insooni, pansori (Korean opera) singer Ahn Sook-sun, and composer Yang Bang-ean, who showcased a colorful rendition of the national anthem featuring melodies of the folk song “Arirang.”

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In her inauguration speech, Park stressed the importance of vitalizing the economy, strengthening welfare and making the arts more available to the wider public.

“As president of the Republic of Korea, I will live up to the will of the people by achieving economic rejuvenation, the happiness of the people and the flourishing of our culture,” she said.

Daughter of late former President Park Chung-hee (in office 1961-79), the incoming head-of-state was a lawmaker of 15 years for the ruling Saenuri Party. During the last five years of her father’s term, she served as first lady after her mother, Yuk Young-soo, was assassinated by a North Korean spy, until the senior Park was also murdered, by one of his closest aides.

She is Korea’s first woman president as well as its first leader to hold an engineering degree, which the 61-year-old earned at Sogang University.