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South Korean rapper Psy's anti-U.S. song fogs date at D.C. concert

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South Korean pop sensation Psy was schooled in the United States at Boston University and Berklee College of Music.

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By The Washington Post
Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012, 7:32 p.m.

Psy, the South Korean rapper whose pop hit “Gangnam Style” has been viewed more than 900 million times on YouTube, participated in two anti-American performances about a decade ago, a story that finally trickled into English-language media last week.

Although the pop star quickly issued an apology, the controversy could build because Psy is slated to perform on Sunday night at “Christmas in Washington,” the annual holiday concert that will have President Obama and his family in the audience.

“Kill those ------- Yankees who have been torturing Iraqi captive / Kill those -------- Yankees who ordered them to torture / Kill their daughters, mothers, daughters-in-law, and fathers / Kill them all slowly and painfully,” Psy sang at a 2004 concert in South Korea, held in protest of the United States and its military.

The lyrics are not his — the song, “Dear American,” is by South Korean metal band N.E.X.T. — but the performance is in stark contrast to the smiling, good-natured pop star that Americans have been introduced to over the past six months.

“Gangnam Style” became the most-viewed video in YouTube's history, and the song — along with its silly “horse dance” — has been largely inescapable since it starting dominating the Internet over the summer.

A Gallup poll in 2004 found that 75 percent of 20-something Koreans said they disliked or hated Americans. Psy, the 34-year-old whose real name is Park Jae-sang, and most of his generation in South Korea were caught up in a wave of anti-Americanism, driven by complicated cultural and political circumstances, including the Iraq War and a 2002 incident in which a U.S. military vehicle struck and killed two 14-year-old girls walking on the side of a road outside Seoul.

“The song I was featured in eight years ago was part of a deeply emotional reaction to the war in Iraq and the killing of two Korean schoolgirls that was part of the overall antiwar sentiment shared by others around the world at that time,” Psy said in a statement released on Friday afternoon. “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 by those words.”

The 2004 concert was the second incident in which Psy expressed anti-American views.

Two years earlier, Psy, who attended Boston University and Berklee College of Music in the late 1990s, walked onstage at a performance that protested the large U.S. military presence in South Korea. He wore an outlandish, glittery red costume and gold face paint. As the crowd cheered, Psy lifted a large model of a U.S. tank and smashed it against the stage.

In his apology on Friday, Psy mentioned the U.S. military.

“I have been honored to perform in front of American soldiers in recent months ... and I hope they and all Americans can accept my apology.”

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