How Psy Lent His Cool to Books in Korea

In Feature Articles by Roger Tagholm

Psy's time may be past, but for a moment brought buzz to Seoul's Metropolitan Library.

Psy’s time may be past, but for a moment brought buzz to Seoul’s Metropolitan Library. Click to play the video.

By Roger Tagholm

If you’re in New York you go up the Empire State Building and if you’re in Paris you visit the Eiffel Tower. But if you’re in Seoul? Well, it has the North Seoul Tower too, but really, any self-respecting connected individual — most probably someone who has young teenage kids — has only one place to go.

Hey, sexy lady!” Yes, you have to take the subway to Gangnam to pay YouTube homage to the man who put this hitherto unknown district on the global map. Gangnam is the upmarket area of Seoul immortalized by the singer Psy in his 2012 hit, Gangnam Style, which was the first YouTube video to reach a billion views.

What relevance does this have for a publishing journal you ask?  Well, inevitably, Psy was faced with the problem of how to follow this monster hit – it’s what you might call ‘second novel’ syndrome.  Fortunately, Korea’s book industry was able to lend a hand.

Seoul Metropolitan Library sign (1)

For one of the scenes in his follow-up song, Gentleman, released this past April, Psy chose Seoul’s splendid Metropolitan Library, recently re-furbished and re-opened to the public. He can be seen dancing on the sweeping steps by the impressive, five-meter high wall of books that links the two General Collection floors — thereby giving the library some extraordinary publicity, even if one or two of the more strait-laced city officials wondered whether encouraging dancing in a library is quite the right message (hey guys, anything that makes books seem cool, no?).

The video has now been viewed some 467 million times, which means the library clip has been seen that many times too. That may explain why these steps were so crowded when I visited. Young Koreans love to browse here and sit on the steps.

The library is fabulous. It occupies the former City Hall building, built in 1926 when Korea was under Japanese colonial rule, and has some 200,000 books, as well as a book café and rooftop garden. The new City Hall rises dramatically behind it, a modern steel and glass structure providing a striking new-against-old combination.

Psy also chose the grass square in front of it for a free concert following the success of Gangnam Style. The question now is: will he grace the Korea pavilion at the London Book Fair in 2014 when Korea is Market Focus? Perhaps he might have a memoir to promote by then?

About the Author

Roger Tagholm


Roger Tagholm is based in London and has been writing about the book industry for more than 20 years. He is the former Deputy Editor of Publishing News and the author of Walking Literary London (New Holland) and Poems NOT on the Underground (Windrush Press).