South Korean rap star Psy walks backstage before performing at the annual… (Molly Riler / Pool Photo )
WASHINGTON -- President Obama and his family saw “Gangnam Style” rapper Psy perform at a charity concert Sunday night, days after the South Korean pop star and Internet sensation apologized for a song in 2004 that called for killing “Yankees” in Iraq.
Park Jae-sang, who performs as Psy, issued a statement Friday saying he was “deeply sorry” after reports surfaced that he had performed a song eight years ago during protests against the war in Iraq that called for killing “Yankees who have been torturing Iraqi captives.”
Psy’s “Gangnam Style” music video, with its distinctive horse-trot dance move, exploded in popularity after it was posted online last July, vaulting the obscure rapper to international stardom in five months. In November, Psy's video surpassed Justin Bieber's “Baby” to become the most watched video in YouTube history, with more than 900 million hits.
Before becoming a global celebrity, Psy was active in his country’s antiwar movement, which chiefly protested the large U.S. military presence in South Korea.
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At a concert in 2004, he performed a song called “Dear American,” written by the South Korean rock band N.E.X.T., which calls for killing “Yankees” involved in torture. The rapper added, “Kill their daughters, mothers, daughters-in-law and fathers, kill them all slowly and painfully.”
Psy, 34, said he deeply regrets the “inflammatory and inappropriate language” that he used, and said it was part of a “deeply emotional” reaction to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. He has recently performed in front of U.S. service members, and praised their sacrifice.
“I will forever be sorry for any pain I have caused by those words,” he wrote. “While I'm grateful for the freedom to express one's self, I've learned there are limits to what language is appropriate and I'm deeply sorry for how these lyrics could be interpreted.”
Psy said he hoped Americans would accept his apology.
“In my music, I try to give people a release, a reason to smile,” he wrote. “I have learned that through music, our universal language, we can all come together as a culture of humanity and I hope that you will accept my apology.”
White House spokesman Brandon Lepow said earlier Sunday that President Obama still intended to attend the annual charity event, called “Christmas in Washington.”
The concert, which was filmed Sunday night to be broadcast Dec. 21 on TNT, raises money for the Children's National Medical Center in Washington. It was the fourth time the Obama family has attended.
At the end of the performance, Obama made a brief speech to the crowd about the holiday season and the charity. He did not mention Psy.
Obama called the concert "the chance to share with some very brave people ... and it gives them hope, not just through the holiday but all year round."
[Updated, 5:39 p.m. Dec. 9: This post has been updated to reflect the fact that the concert has taken place, with Obama in attendance, and to add his quote at the end.]