What does “Oppa Gangnam Style” mean?

K-Pop king Psy (short for “Psycho”) isn’t going anywhere soon. His performance last night of his viral hit “Gangnam Style” at the AMAS with MC Hammer brought down the house.

But what does the chorus “Oppa Gangnam Style” mean?

Oppa means “older brother” in Korean, but it’s also a phrase girls affectionately call their boyfriends. Gangnam is a fancy community in Seoul, South Korea where wealthy young people go to party. The phrase pretty much means “Your boyfriend is a rich kid.”

His dance, which he calls the horse dance, is silly and fun, but it’s also poking fun at horse riding, a past-time of the wealthy. Everything about Psy’s addictive hit video is fun, but the zany ridiculousness is also a comment on the class system in South Korea (we also can relate the the video all too well in the U.S.)

CLICK HERE to see a map of Seoul, to get a better understanding of where Gangnum is. In her blog, My Dear Korea, she provides a detailed background on the development of Gangnum, and concludes that PSY is making fun of himself in the song for being a true Gangnum man, and all the ridiculousness that goes with it. There’s a line in the song were he talks about wanting a woman who will buy him a cup of coffee. That sounds kind of like a small thing to want, but it has a particular meaning in South Korea. Apparently there is a cliche about a type of woman who will spent a small amount of money on a cup of Ramen to feed herself just so she can afford an expensive cup of Starbucks coffee.

“They’re called Doenjangnyeo, or soybean paste women, for their propensity to crimp on essentials so they can overspend on conspicuous luxuries, of which coffee is, believe it or not, one of the most common.”

We’re silly about our expensive coffees in the U.S., but this is taking it to the extreme.

Here’s Psy with MC Hammer performing a “Gangnam Style”-“Too Legit to Quit” mash-up

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