According to several reports in Korean media outlets, in 2002 Psy smashed a model of a U.S. tank into the stage at a concert in protest of a tragic incident that occured in June of that year, when a U.S. military vehicle ran over two 14-year-old Korean girls. The driver of the vehicle was later acquitted, leading to months of protests against the American government. Two years later, Psy joined other artists onstage at a protest concert to perform the song “Dear America,” written by the South Korean metal band N.E.X.T.. Psy sang along to the lyrics, “Kill those Yankees who have been torturing Iraqi captives/Kill those Yankees who ordered them to torture/Kill their daughters, mothers, daughters-in-law, and fathers/Kill them slowly and painfully.”
“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,” said Psy in a statement. “The song – from eight years ago – was part of a deeply emotional reaction to the war in Iraq and the killing of two innocent Korean civilians 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 anyone by those words.”
The statement continues, “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 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 though music, our universal language we can all come together as a culture of humanity and I hope that you will accept my apology.”
It is unclear how the controversy will affect Psy’s career in America, but an online petition is currently calling for the cancellation of his appearance at this Sunday’s “Christmas in Washington” event, featuring President Obama and his family. At press time, TNT, which is producing and broadcasting the show, had not responded to Rolling Stone’s request for comment. [UPDATE: 6:00 p.m.: A rep for TNT tells Rolling Stone, “Psy is performing at ‘Christmas in Washington’ as planned.”]
Psy’s video for “Gangnam Style” has been viewed nearly 902 million times on YouTube since it was uploaded in July. It’s the most-viewed video in the history of the website, and Psy has been an inescapable presence on U.S. television and radio over the past few months.