South Korea's President-elect Gallops into Office 'Gangnam Style'
Park Geun-hye was elected the Asia country’s first female head of state — but not without doing Psy's famous "horse dance" a few times first.
SEOUL – With Psy’s now-ubiquitous Gangnam Style heard all the way to the White House, it probably didn’t come as a surprise to see the song taking center stage back home during the South Korean presidential election. Park Geun-hye, chosen Wednesday to be the Asian country’s next president, caught onto the infectious tune and has been spotted more than once doing the famous ‘horse dance.’
Espousing the mainstream power of Gangnam Style, Park’s camp had wanted to use the number as a catchy campaign song -- all the more so since Psy’s personal story of achieving fame after a long period of trial and tribulation was deemed inspiring. Psy, however, refused to grant rights for Park or for other parties that made the request. The singer said through his local agent that he did not want his music to be used for political purposes.
Psy, who did not openly support any candidate, expressed regret via Twitter about being unable to vote due to being abroad, and urged fans to vote on his behalf.
Park, a veteran of the conservative ruling Saenuri Party, won the race by attracting -- for the first time in Korea since free elections began in 1987 -- more than half of the votes cast. But prior to her election she had been relatively less popular among voters in their 20s and 30s, compared to those middle-aged; and in an apparent attempt to reach out to younger crowds the 60-year-old showcased the viral dance sequence twice during her campaign –- albeit in a demure fashion involving minimal wrist action.
Meanwhile, the campaign of Park’s electoral rival Moon Jae-in, a liberal supported by such filmmakers as Lee Chang-dong and Kim Ki-duk, also included a parody video Moon Jae-in Style, in which he danced away with his wife. He also made headlines by promising to do the horse dance in the middle of Myeong-dong –- Seoul’s equivalent of New York’s Times Square –- if voting turnout exceeded 77 percent, regardless of whether or not he would win. The ratio of votes cast was the highest ever in history, but stopped short of 75.8 percent, and Moon did not have to pull the act.
“Psy’s Gangnam Style horse dance has great mass appeal and so it’s natural that it was used for presidential campains,” said pop culture critic Choi Dae-sung. “Even U.S. President Obama said he knew the dance and Psy performed for him recently. The number has reached out across not only different generations but also national boundaries, and has paved the way for cultural dialogue.”
Park, daughter of late former President Park Chung-hee and a lawmaker of 15 years, will step into office in February. “I will become a president who improves living standards and always delivers on promises made,” said the coutry’s –- and Northeast Asia’s –- first female president-elect in her victory speech.