Gangnam Style’s U.S. Popularity Has Koreans Puzzled, Gratified

Once upon a time, if you’d asked a Korean which of their uncountable legions of musical luminaries was most likely to crack the blast-hardened firewall of the American market, they’d have offered up curvaceous crooners like Lee Hyori or BoA, floppy-haired dreamboats like Rain or Kim Hyun Joong, or mega-girl groups and boy bands like Girls Generation and Super Junior.

And why not? These finely tuned, precision-machined performers represent the pinnacle of technology in a market that has transformed the crafting of bubblegum idols into a wildly lucrative multimedia industry. So the unlikely emergence of Park Jae-Song, the chubby, 34-year-old rapper known as PSY, as the face of K-pop, after the explosive success of his rollicking video for “Gangnam Style,” has been greeted by Koreans with a blinking neon “WTF.”

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