Since “Gangnam style” was released in 2012, people all over the world fell in love with the K-pop star who calls himself PSY. The song was in fact the 18th K-pop single by the South Korean musician, who gave K-pop music a massive rocket jump into the international scene with his record-breaking hits. Although his songs are loved worldwide, PSY didn’t always follow a career in music. He had a future set out to become a businessman to help his father’s empire, but thankfully, he changed his path. Here, we are listing some surprising facts about PSY, the K-pop sensation.
1. Park Jae-Sang, a.k.a. PSY was born on December 31, 1977 to an affluent family in the Gangnam District of Seoul, South Korea.
PSY was born to a successful business executive and grew up in Seoul’s affluent Gangnam (or Kangnam) district, south of the Han River. At a young age, Park Jae-Sang was interested in following his dreams of becoming a musician but his life was being directed towards a path where he was to eventually take over his father’s empire. He hated going to school and was often called the class clown.
In an interview on South Korea’s Seoul Broadcasting System, a former teacher of Park said: “I remember PSY making a lot of jokes during class. He had such a big influence that he would drive the entire class to his jokes. I disliked him at the time, but looking back, I see that he added a great energy to the class.”
In 1996, he came to the United States to study English before beginning business studies at Boston University in 1997. Just after a semester, he transferred to the Berklee College of Music. Since then, he spent his remaining tuition funds on musical instruments and entertainment equipment; including a computer, an electric keyboard, and a MIDI interface. During his time at Berklee, Park took core curriculum lessons in ear training, contemporary writing and music synthesis.
His father is the executive chairman of DI Corporation, a manufacturer of semiconductor manufacturing equipment listed on the Korea Exchange. His mother, Kim Young-hee, owns several restaurants in Gangnam.
2. In 2000, without graduating, he returned to South Korea to follow his dreams. That’s when Park chose the stage name “PSY”, which is short for psycho.
Traveling to the US and studying business was part of the preparations to take over DI Corporation from his father. However, when Park realized that he had no interest in that career, he quickly dropped out of everything and returned to South Korea to pursue a music career; without having attained a degree from either Boston University or Berklee. After arriving in South Korea, he made his first appearance on Korean national television in 2000. There, he was spotted by a TV producer who saw potential in him.
Taking the stage name PSY and slightly making a reference to himself as a “psycho” was fine by the South Korean government. They, however, did not appreciate his first album. In 2001, PSY made his debut as a hip-hop artist with the album PSY from the PSYcho World!. Authorities from South Korean broadcasting companies labeled his content as “inappropriate” and fined PSY for releasing such an album. The following year, he was arrested and detained for a short period of time after he was found to possess a controlled substance.
3. This however did not stop the rookie hip hop singer that stirred up the Korean pop music industry with very blunt lyrics, peculiar dance moves and an unconventional appearance; earning him the nickname, “The Bizarre Singer”. Soon after he was freed, he released the albums Ssa 2 and 3PSY; which were also challenged by the government.
Ssa 2 and 3PSY also created controversy upon their release in 2002, earning complaints from civil groups due to the potentially negative influence his album would have on youngsters. After a legal challenge, the albums were age restricted and were only to be broadcasted to adults. Then, he released a single called “Champion”, which became an instant hit in South Korea.
Soon after that, PSY performed his mandatory national military service from 2003 to 2005. After leaving the military, he started producing more and more albums; which were all becoming instant hits.
4. In an interview with CNN’s Alina Cho, PSY explained that his love for music was discovered after watching footage of “Bohemian Rhapsody” on live TV.
When he was 15-years-old, Park was watching a Korean TV program that introduced foreign pop music. One particular episode showed a concert at Wembley Stadium held by the British rock band Queen, where they performed their 1975 hit single “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Park said it was this concert footage that sparked his love for music. Freddy Mercury is also his role model.
In an interview with The New York Times, he said, “My lifetime role model and hero is Freddie Mercury of Queen. His songwriting skills, I cannot even approach, but his showmanship, I learned it from videos. I’m No. 1 in the U.K. right now, so if I have any chance to go there, I want to meet Queen and to tell them how much I got inspired by their music”.
5. In 2007, state prosecutors accused PSY of “neglecting” his work, holding concerts and appearing on local television networks during his period of prior employment. The same year, he was redrafted into the military, where he had held the rank of Private First Class and served as a signalman in the 52nd Army Infantry Division.
After being redrafted into the military, PSY spent the next two years as a signalman in the 52nd Army Infantry Division. He was released in 2009, and started producing music videos again.
6. On July 1, 2012 PSY released the single “Gangnam Style”. During its release, he did not wish to upload the video to YouTube, since he lacked international viewers. However, his friends kept forcing him to upload the song and he eventually gave in.
On July 1, 2012, when PSY released his new album, Gangnam Style wasn’t meant to be uploaded to YouTube. In an interview, he recalls,
“I didn’t even know what YouTube was back then. Some friends of mine told me to upload the MV, but I said that it would be a humiliation if the views were too low, since I didn’t have any international fans. So, I told them ‘Let’s not upload this’.”
“But, because of my friends, we still decided to share it, just for fun. After about a month or so, those amazing things started to happen. It all felt like a hidden camera prank.”
7. On December 21, 2012, his music video for “Gangnam Style” exceeded one billion views on YouTube, becoming the first video to do so in the website’s history. The video was also a reason for YouTube to upgrade their 32-bit integer system to a 64-bit system.
On May 31, 2014, the video for Psy’s Gangnam Style hit two billion views. As of July 2017, it was the second most viewed video on YouTube, with over 2.89 billion views. Today, Gangnam Style has more than 3.2 billion views, and is still on the top ten viewed videos on YouTube. When the video first started getting more views than expected, YouTube couldn’t handle the requests. This was because YouTube was using a 32-bit integer system before PSY uploaded the video. When the views hit 2,147,483,647, that was the highest number that YouTube could show, as they had not expected this number of views. They then increased the maximum to 9,223,372,036,854,775,808.
8. After “Gangnam Style” went viral, PSY spent the rest of the year traveling around the world, making public appearances and giving live performances. His speech at the Oxford Union in England was so in demand that tickets had to be assigned by ballots.
After his YouTube video went viral, PSY’s Gangnam Style was peaking at number two on the Billboard Hot 100. This also gained him immense fame on an international level. He spent the rest of 2012 traveling around the world, giving speeches, performances and signing record deals. His speech at Oxford was so popular that tickets had to be assigned by ballot. This method was not required when Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama or Michael Jackson gave live speeches.
9. PSY‘s signature horse dance took some time to create, with other animals being tested out, including kangaroo, elephant and monkey dances.
During one of his speeches, PSY said, “I stayed up for 30 nights to find that horse riding dance. I tried not just horse. I tried every creature. Elephant, monkey, kangaroo, snake, falling leaves, sun and moon. In Korea, my last five dance moves, they were so famous. This was number six. There was a lot of pressure”.
10. Gangnam is a wealthy neighborhood in the South Korean city of Seoul where young people go to party. In the song, PSY describes the kind of guy he is and the kind of girl he wants.
It roughly means something like ‘Your man has Gangnam Style.’ ‘Oppa,’ which literally means ‘older brother,’ is an affectionate term girls use to address older guy friends or a boyfriend. Here, PSY refers to himself as ‘oppa’ — in this case, he’s telling a woman that he has Gangnam style. In an interview with The New York Times, he said, “It’s a horse-riding dance and you’re on an invisible horse”.