Recently, I happened to google about “music is subversive”, and I came across this article about the most watched music video in Youtube in 2012 called “Gangnam Style”, which is a South Korean pop hit. It is interesting to learn that this popular music video actually is a satire about the capitalistic society’s attachment to wealth and class, and the futility of such materialistic pursuits.

“Gangnam is a tiny Seoul neighborhood, and Park’s “Gangnam Style” video lampoons its self-importance and ostentatious wealth, with Psy playing a clownish caricature of a Gangnam man.

t turns out that the video is rich with subtle references that, along with the song itself, suggest a subtext with a surprisingly subversive message about class and wealth in contemporary South Korean society.

The video is “a satire about Gangnam itself but also it’s about how people outside Gangnam pursue their dream to be one of those Gangnam residents without even realizing what it really means,”

On her blog, she suggested the video portrayed the Gangnam area, a symbol of South Korea’s national aspirations for prosperity and status, as “nothing but materialistic and about people who are chasing rainbows.” Pretty heavy for a viral pop hit.

“I think it all ties back to the same thing: the pursuit of materialism, the pursuit of form over function,” Hong said. “Koreans made extraordinary gains as a country, in terms of GDP and everything else, but that growth has not been equitable. I think the young people are finally realizing that. There’s a genuine backlash. … You’re seeing a huge amount of resentment from youth about their economic circumstances.”

(From “Gangnam Style, Dissected: The Subversive Message Within South Korea’s Music Video Sensation“)

I think this growing awareness of the vanity and futility of materialism and the inequality problem of capitalism is not only a South Korean phenomenon but rather is pervasive in modern cities in Asia, including Singapore, mainly due to the effects of globalisation, as also seen in the West. The old mindset and system of so-called economic growth or economic development needs to change as people are coming to terms with the realisation that the capitalistic system is not only flawed and unsustainable but also unfair and unjust to humanity.

Indeed, the old social order must make way for the new social order for the betterment of humanity, to restore justice and equality. No one is deemed higher or lower than another in the new order, for we are all one and equal to one another. An egalitarian society is the hope of the future of humankind, where the young are respected, the elderly are honoured, the women are held in equal esteem as men, and everyone is considered and treated with dignity regardless of their background, age, gender, “economic status” and so on.

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