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My 2012: While you were busy Googling ‘What is a Gangnam?’…

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Any worries I had about ‘losing touch’ during my year abroad in Southeast Asia were quickly shattered one July night while I lay in a hostel bunk-bed in Taiwan. I opened my iPad to find an adorable yet slightly chubby Korean man decked out in hip glasses, a funky suit and an irresistible smirk busy bombarding every one of my bookmarked websites. That moment and many more in the following days and months reassured me that my move to Korea would not hinder my mission to stay relevantly informed about all things social. I could in fact keep in touch with friends, family and my growing passion (slight obsession) with social media creation and strategy. Gangnam Style gave me a slight home-court advantage. While most Americans were busy Googling: ‘What the heck is a Gangnam?’, ‘Where did K-Pop come from?’ and ‘Who is Psy and is that his real name?’ I had time to catch up on my backlogged and favorited Tweets from Mashable, Gawker, Social Media Examiner and more.

At first my fellow teacher friends in Seoul eagerly posted the horse-dance video, just for kicks, to all available social wall space. Then, when the YouTube view count refused to plateau, I casually mentioned the video in Skype conversation with a friend who was enjoying the summer in New England. She giggled at the elevator dance scene and commented, “Wow Devan, Korea looks like a fun time.” A week later a second reply was digitally served, “So, you know that video you showed me? It’s here. It’s everywhere. It’s blowing up.” And although I scoffed at my real-life and Twitter friends who continued to miserably misspell ‘Gangnam’ in posts and had never been out clubbing in the song’s swanky section of Seoul, I was proud of Psy and the small yet fiercely determined, extremely successful, technologically advanced and warmhearted country that I chose to call home in 2012.

As I prepare to return home to NH in the next few months and further my career in social media strategy and communications, many details are uncertain. Job searching is a job in itself, but throw in 7,000 miles and a 14 hour time difference between you and your target professional setting  and it becomes almost as challenging as mastering the horse-dance while fumbling through a few Korean lyrics about “a girl with that kind of twist”.

I know some may question why I up and left a marketing job in Boston to move to Korea to teach ESL and eat kimchi at every meal. I don’t think I will be able to answer this question fully for another few years, but I can say I am happier now than I was a year ago and I spent 2012 in close proximity to one of the year’s biggest social media stories. My time in Korea will always and forever be smack dab in the middle of ‘The Year of Gangnam Style’. Or maybe I have that mixed up: Psy’s year of fame just happened to occur during ‘Devan’s Korea Quest.’ Please, just for now, let me believe the latter to be true.

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Skype Me Maybe, I’m in Gangnam.

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So, before Gangnam Style‘s PSY becomes even more of a household name outside of Korea, perhaps with help from Justin Bieber (hold on, I will get to that), I feel the need to blog about this song, well really, the video. I first viewed the viral video while I was laying in the top bunk of a hostel room in Taiwan during my recent vacation. It was late, but I couldn’t sleep and I was quietly enjoying the hostel’s free WiFi and using my iPad to scroll through my Twitter and Facebook feeds. I had been disconnected from all forms of social media for a few days (I recommend trying it) and I was itching to catch up on all that I had missed. All of a sudden I was bombarded with posts about the Gangnam Style video, so I clicked on a link and was sent to YouTube. Being on the top bunk with my luggage below, I had to manage without my headphones and I watched the video in silence. The silent video was spectacular, and you can’t say that about most music videos. I was unaware of how big PSY’s comeback hit was at that moment, but I found myself entertained and impressed by the singer’s outlandish dance moves and the bizarre places he chose to display his skills. The next morning I experienced the real thing. I set up my iPad for a public viewing and my travel companions circled around to watch Gangnam Style, this time at full volume. Then we watched it again. And then a few more times after that.

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Park Jae Sang, called PSY in Korea, is known for his entertaining and original dance moves and quirky sense of humor. Being from New England, I am proud to share that he is a Berklee College of Music graduate. Gangnam Style, from PSY’s 6th album, was released on July 15, along with the video. The song instantly became a K-Pop sensation, but what was interesting was that the video saw 2 million hits in just 5 days. The song itself is, from what I gather, about the swanky and affluent Gangnam district in Seoul, particularly the women in this area. The idea is that the women are proper and appropriate during the day, but they also know how to enjoy a good party come nightfall. Some translated lyrics (below) help in the understanding of PSY’s words:

A girl who is warm and humanle during the day

A classy girl who know how to enjoy the freedom of a cup of coffee

A girl whose heart gets hotter when night comes

A girl with that kind of twist

Throughout the video PSY dances his way through Gangnam. He parties in a bus, shimmies on the subway, gallops with his now famous “horse-riding dance” through a stable, distracts women practicing yoga, entertains onlookers in a pool and has a dance-off in a deserted parking garage, just to name a few. Among others, ABC and CNN have shown interest in the viral video and the well-known media blog Gawker.com wrote on July 30: Did This Underground Hip Hop Artist from South Korea Just Release the Best Music Video of the Year? Twitter blew up with tweets about the video and the artist’s work received praise from fellow musicians. T-Pain (@TPAIN) tweeted: “Words cannot even describe how amazing this video is.” and Josh Groban (@joshgroban) told his followers: “It’s a Gangnam Style world, we’re just living in it. Amazing video.”

Just yesterday, as I bonded over a popsicle and pop music with a student at my school, the topic of PSY came up, as it should. “He will sing with Justin Bieber!” the girl proudly announced. I almost fell off my swivel chair. She was so excited, so I went along with the story and waited to Google the claim’s validity at a later time. I understood Gangnam Style‘s popularity in Korea and the video’s few days of world-wide fame, but I was surprised to learn that PSY will in fact meet with Justin Bieber’s manager, Scooter Braun, while he is visiting the US in the near future. Perhaps a PSY/Justin Bieber collaboration is in the future, or maybe Bieber is just a huge fan and is looking to learn more about Gangnam Style from the source itself. All I know is that Braun and Bieber were responsible for signing Carly Rae Jepsen, and we all know (whether we like it or not) how that went down. Skype Me Maybe, I’m in Gangnam.

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