'Gangnam Style' hits Korea's rich as economy slows

The viral video celebrates, and perhaps satirizes, Korea's excesses, but Europe's never-ending fiscal woes have slowed the country's economic growth to a crawl.

By Jonathan Berr Sep 21, 2012 4:05PM
Most of the hundreds of millions of people who have viewed "Gangnam Style," the hit viral video on Google's (GOOG) YouTube site featuring the bizarre dance moves of South Korean rapper Psy (as in Psycho), probably have no idea that the catchy tune contains a timely economic message.  

According to media reports, Psy's lyrics (an English translation of which is here), echo the disdain many Koreans feel toward the newly wealthy. Gangnam, a neighborhood in Seoul, is a Korea's answer to Beverly Hills, thanks to a development boom that began in the 1970s. An apartment there costs about $716,000, which would take the average Korean family 18 years to earn, and households there spend four times the national average on education, according to the AP.  

Residents of Gangnam, though, may not be having at as good as Psy suggests. Take real estate. A think tank recently suggested that "the shrinking proportion of Korea's working age population could burst a real estate market bubble and trigger a financial crisis," according to the South China Morning Post.   

Europe's never-ending fiscal woes have slowed Korea's economic growth to a crawl. The IMF is forecasting that gross domestic product will expand by 3% this year, down from an earlier projection of 3.25%. The Korea Economic Research Institute, a think tank, is even more pessimistic, forecasting growth of 2.6%. Not surprisingly, Korea-based Samsung recently posted disappointing quarterly results. The company also is appealing Apple's (AAPL) recent $1 billion plus patent victory -- and Apple has reportedly requested to triple the damages on the basis of the jury finding Samsung guilty of willful "infringement."

Park Jae-sang, Psy's real name, may have the last laugh. Though many people use the term "one-hit wonder" as an insult, it really is a compliment because an entertainer can earn enough money from a popular song to set them financially for life. That means that he will be able to live "Gangnam style" -- and do so at a discount, given Korea's economic woes.

--Jonathan Berr hopes that his dancing never sees the light of day on YouTube or anywhere else. Follow him on Twitter @jdberr

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