SEOUL – South Korea has awarded one of its highest cultural honors to the rapper Psy for taking the world by storm with his “Gangnam Style” hit.
The culture ministry announced Tuesday that the 34-year-old singer, whose real name is Park Jae-Sang, would receive the Okgwan Order of Cultural Merit, awarded for “outstanding meritorious services” to the arts.
“Psy has been chosen to be decorated for not only being a long-term artist, but also for advertising Gangnam widely and increasing the world’s interest in Korea,” a culture ministry official told AFP.
Psy has rocketed to international fame since his “Gangnam Style” video — in which he performs his now famous horse-riding dance — went viral after being posted on YouTube in July.
“Gangnam Style”, which is a tribute to an upmarket neighborhood in Seoul, has since racked up more than 654 million views, making it the second most-watched YouTube video of all time, behind Canadian teenage heartthrob Justin Bieber’s “Baby”, on 796 million.
The song has topped charts from Britain to Australia, and has occupied the number two slot on the US Billboard Hot 100 for six straight weeks.
South Korea sees popular culture as a potent export force providing international exposure for a country that still feels overlooked in comparison to neighbours China and Japan.
The government has spent substantial time and money supporting the so-called Hallyu (Korean Wave) of TV shows and pop music that has swept across Asia in the past decade.
Film director Kim Ki-Duk, who won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival this year with his movie Pieta, will receive the Eungwan Order of Cultural Merit — which ranks higher than Psy’s medal.