Bridging the Cultural Gap – Gangnam Style?

By Molly Rydon

Walking through a busy department store on my way to work, I find myself tuning out from the daily reminders of Australia’s role in the Asian Century, cycling endlessly in my head. Instead I focus on the music and I recognise Gangnam Style, the latest trend to hit Australia’s music scene. That’s when it hit me. This cultural gap that has continued to obstruct Australia’s relations with its Asian neighbours: could Gangnam style be the answer?

As of 27 December 2012, the Youtube video of Gangnam Style had been viewed over one billion times, making it the most viewed video to date. Its catchy tune and even catchier “giddy-up” dance moves has burgeoned an interest in Asian pop, never before seen in Australia. Bars and pubs in Melbourne once showing rock groups and other artists are now regularly booked by Korean-American rappers, Chinese indie-rockers and Mongolian hip-hoppers. But by far the greatest thing about this growing interest is that it appears to span many groups and cultures. As Caroline Sullivan notes in her review of another South Korean K-Pop group to hit the Western charts, Big Bang, K-pop is proof that music recognises no boundaries.

And speaking of Gangnam Style’s global reach, even Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary General of the United Nations has labelled this phenomenon as a “force for world peace”. Indeed, Gangnam Style is slowly doing what the diplomats apparently struggle with; building friendly relationships between countries in Asia. Perhaps Gangnam style is the much-needed tool to bridge the cultural gap so evidently felt between Australia and its Asian neighbours?

Here in Australia, we live in a multicultural society and the influence of Asian culture can be felt in all realms of our lives. However, when I think of these influences, South Korea is not a country that immediately springs to mind. Despite it being Australia’s fourth-largest trading partner, Australia’s relationship with South Korea barely goes beyond a sound economic partnership. Even as a tourist destination, South Korea rates poorly on Australia’s choice destination list. As Gangnam Style and other K-Pop names continue to infiltrate our sound waves, the Australian Government needs to jump on the opportunity to stimulate Australia’s relationship with this increasingly important nation of over fifty million people.

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