Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Economics Gangnam Style

What ?? You don't know what Gangnam Style is ? It is the K-Pop (Korean Pop) sensation that has taken the world by storm. It  is No 2 on the UK and US pop charts, watched on You Tube some 400 million times . Everybody , it seems, wants to prance like a horse . Even the West Indies team, on winning the T20 World Cup, gave an energetic rendition of Gangnam Style (note the absence of the word cricket in this sentence !). Well, if you haven't heard of the original before, you can add to the 400m+ views by watching it here - beware, you have to practice prancing like a horse while doing so.

This blogger is seriously musically challenged and has no qualifications to write a music post - that being the domain of experts like Suja.  Or like another esteemed reader of this blog who runs his own radio station. Instead he shall demonstrate his "hipness" by linking economics to Gangnam Style !

HTC (a Taiwanese company) just declared its quarter's results announcing a 80% drop in profits. At the same time Samsung (a Korean company) announced a 85% rise in profits. You see its all got to do with Gangnam Style coolness. Galaxy S3 is cool, HTC Desire isn't. Five years ago, you wouldn't dream of owning a Hyundai car. Today, its quite OK to park your Equus next to a Japanese or German equivalent and not be subjected to hoots of derision. Or consider Amore Pacific an increasingly successful cosmetics company - after all if South Korean girls can look so young and pretty, there must be something in the cosmetics they use ! South Korea is just not ships or steel anymore. Brand South Korea is going places - Gangnam style.

The country which has the biggest lessons to learn is China. China desperately wants to be loved and is nonplussed when nobody seems to love it. It would dearly love to export "soft power" in addition to its undoubted "hard power". But it tries to do that by pouring money into CCTV globally- now it must take a seriously self flagellating masochist to watch CCTV for more than 1 minute. It shoots itself in the foot by going after anybody who said hello to the Dalai Lama. It threatens war over a few rocks in the middle of the sea. It stands no chance of global embrace by doing such things. It only results in Huawei not being allowed to sell much in the US. Nobody is going to proudly claim to own a Haier washing machine or even a Lenovo laptop. Instead it should unleash the creative forces of its wonderful people. Make them prance like a horse. Or if they like, maybe waddle like a panda. Preferably Gangnam style !


28 comments:

  1. Hmmm, didnt expect you to write on Gangnam Style! Bravo! On a serious note there is a 11 year old girl - exchange student from Seoul living here in NZ (10 weeks) with one of my friends.Knows very little english but boy, she gives the kids here a complex. Her average day in Korea starts at 645am and ends at midnight. School is 8am onwards, followed by math, music, english, taekwondo (I'm 176cm tall and she can reach my forehead with her kick), getting back to an empty house at 730pm, making her own dinner and then interacting with her parents for 2 hours when they return from work at 10pm! No wonder Korea is no longer shipping and steel. The i45 and iX35 (big brothers of your wee litte i10) are about as good as the Beamers or Audi's in styling, have the same saftey ratings as the Euros. Perhaps there is a lesson for us mango people from the banana republic. (as proclaimed by the first son in law) Or perhaps we need to learn the fine art of manufacturing Rs.3Billion from thin air in a matter of few months

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  2. Come on.. you can't be musically challenged at all, if you did write about Gangnam (earlier Kolaveri too and several other musical posts). And definitely not if you watched the video... :)

    Perhaps, a Chengdu or Shenzhen style would do a world of good to China... :)

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  3. wow..thalai into latest meejic also!!! chaanceleeenga..wonder if there are any topic left in the whole wide world that u cant link to economics :D

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  4. @Kiwi - Oh yes, the Korean "dragon mother" syndrome is frightening. I observed it when I was in China. I don't think there is any society on earth that pushes their children more than South Korea.

    @Vishal - Ha Ha, I am managing to trick you into believing my musical awareness ; Hurray :):)

    @Gilsu - I am imagining Gilsu dancing Gangnam style. Make a video please :)

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  5. Long time ago, I had seen a documentary on how South Korea wants to excel in manufacturing everything that Japan does and do it better. It is this passion that has made them virtually the new Japan of the world. Now we will be happy to buy and pay more for "Made in Korea" (P.S. Mango people in Banana Republic have a long way to go to come to this). But of course we are No 1 perhaps in Corruption



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  6. Brand south korea - yes, they were leaders in electronics too.( don't know now).We were fans of Hyundai tall boy 10 years back itself, though we shifted our priorities to Honda 6 years back.

    Oh yeah! Gangnam style!! Everybody from gayle to djokovic to tom cruise to Ramesh is mesmerized.

    Amazed at the way you have correlated economics to gangnam.

    Watch business musings going oppa Gangnam way!!

    (When i glanced at the newspaper and saw "gangnam", I thought was a telugu movie.)

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  7. :D you are truly hip if you have seen the video! So many of my friends don't even have a clue.

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  8. My six year old, who is rapidly becoming the arbiter of pop culture in the family, discovered PSY and Gangnam style, just as she cottoned on to Kolaveri a few months back. Indeed, I am surprised that an old fogey like yourself (I say this in the nicest possible way) is now shaking a leg to this new craze!

    O Tempora! O Mores!

    On a serious note - the coming to age of South Korea happened in the 80s, when in reaction to the killing of students at Kwangju and other such high-handed behaviour, the "managed democracy" of post-war military governments was discarded and the country became a proper democracy. The collective sigh of relief was palpable. The highly successful 1988 Olympics set the seal on a country that had truly arrived. People felt free to experiment with notions of style and trend without being labelled as decadent and not sufficiently ready to pick up a rifle and defend the border. The siege mentality post 1953 dissipated.

    China suffers from it still, as you have pointed out time and again in frustration, as the instinct to try and do the right thing by people is tempered by the inability to shed the past. China will need genuine political reform.

    And hereby I pronounce this the Rajagopalan Conjecture - the ability to produce style is directly proportional to the availability of democracy in the country.

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  9. Hey, last night, before drifting off to sleep, I read the New Yorker (yes, the old-style--print version in my hand!)and after scanning through the cartoons, which is what I always do first, I settled on reading about K-Pop.
    (http://goo.gl/M8hZw)
    I hadn't known that K-pop and K-drama are such huge hits in China, Japan, ...

    Now, I read your blog, which is also about K-pop. I better start listening to K-pop and impress the hell out of my students, eh ;)

    I like that conjecture that style is proportional to democracy. Remember how bland and boring the Soviet fashions were--from their clothes to the cars to the planes? And now, it is Pussy Riot!
    (BTW, the Russians freed one member and not all the three? What's up with that?)

    You threw in a word "Huawei" and I had to do a Google search for that ... hey, write about things that I know, for a change ;)

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  10. @Sanjay - Yeah; Korea has built a nice image for itself. Although as Kiwi says their reputation when it comes to children borders on barbaric !

    @Asha - Ha ha; it could very well be a Telugu movie :):) Apparently its a suburb in Seoul with very well to do people.

    @Deepa - Yeeeaaa Yeeaaaaaa - I'm hip :):)

    @Ravi - The old fogey would have never heard of it but for a pretty Malaysian of Chinese origin who lives in Australia, but whom I met in China tipping me off !!! Ah the wonders of an interconnected world.

    There's something in the Rajagopalan conjecture. I would submit that democracy is a necessary, but not sufficient condition for style. After all Switzerland has democracy but can you imagine anything more boring than that lot :)

    @sriram - You better become hep if you want those pretty students to drool drool :):)

    Yes,I agree with the Rajagopalan conjecture (what a name !). Russia is a particularly great example given how incredibly stunning Russian women are naturally. Haven't been following the Pussy Riot story - did they get one of them out ??

    Aww, I'm much tickled if I can confound a distinguished Professor :)

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  11. I should have seen this coming.. yet I didnt. Trust you to link Econonimcs to Gangnam style. and mind you other than those two words (economics and Gangnam, thankfully i had watched the video recently), everything else was education to me).

    Bow to thee. Pye-ha 폐하

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  12. I didn't know about Gangnam style! Thanks for introducing!

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  13. When you wrote "Even the West Indies team, on winning the T20 World Cup, gave an energetic rendition of Gangnam Style (note the absence of the word cricket in this sentence !)" -- you gave the perfect example of a self-referring or a recursive sentence.

    Older readers may recall the classic "Godel Escher Bach - An Eternal Golden Braid" by Douglas Hofstadter. The author explores in detail recursive and other patterns in music, art and mathematics. The artist Rene Magritte painted "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" (tr. This is Not a Pipe) which had a giant pipe as the subject. MC Escher drew pictures of never-ending staircases and patterns of doves that became blackbirds in the same drawing. Bach composed wonderful fugues full of repeating patterns of greater complexity. And Godel proved that there was at least one theorem in Russell's "Principia Mathematica" that cannot be proven using ONLY the constructs in that compendium of mathematics.

    Recursion is a recurrent theme in computer science but we can have a lot of fun with it in daily life.

    Sorry - could not resist.

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  14. Love the connection between economics and gangnam style! I also have to thank you for the big shout-out you gave my radio station. I don't know what was better - the "shoutout" or you referring to me as an "esteemed reader" of this blog. I agree with everything in your post. I just hope people don't delude themselves into believing that gangnam style is going to bring k-pop to the mainstream and keep it there. The virality of the song lies in its music video. Without the video, it is generic trash with 90s music samples (I would know since I was quite the pop fanatic in the 90s in high school - I kinda still am!). I am still waiting to see the expression on the face of the person that gave PSY a multiple album record deal just based on gangnam style - when he realized what an idiotic investment that's likely to be!

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  15. gangnam style! I was expecting there would be post on this but did not expect you to link it to South Korean eco! btw gilsu dancing for gangnam style!! LOL ROTFL
    But you should really watch a telugu movie :)) Heard REBEL is awesome ;)

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  16. @Vincy - Wow, you are really hip - maybe your son introduced you to it !!

    Loved your Korean by the way :)

    @Ravi - You are not supposed to write a learned treatise on recursion. You are simply supposed to agree that T20 is not cricket :)

    @Pranav - Why don't you interview PSY for your station. At least he comes across as a sane guy, instead of the weirdos who inhabit popular music. Loved your opinion of the music, but why are you raving against whoever gave him a record deal - lesser worthies have gotten away with blue murder. I am squarely in PSY's camp simply because he is not a weirdo.

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  17. @Filipino - What have I done to you that you want to inflict the torture of a Telugu movie on me :)

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  18. Did not expect to see you blog on Gangnam style! You have revealed your fine taste in music :) Great comments too. Interestingly, the Atlantic had done a piece analyzing how this song was actually making fun of the nouveau riche in Korea and hinting at how shallow they are. So it may not be so far removed from economics :)

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  19. I have to say that while watching the T20 hit-and-giggle final, I found glipmses of cricket. The opening spell of the Sri Lanka (before their resident chucker Malinga got into it) was stupendous bowling. It was fascinating to someone who trundled his medium pace at 3rd Division English clubs for several years. Pinpoint accuracy - just outside the offstump to provoke errors but not so much to risk a wide, and pitched so that the ball cramped the batter. To reduce West Indies to 30-2 in ten overs was world class, in my opinion. The ball that got the opener was a gem. In test cricket, there would have been a sigh as the ball split the batsman in half. In T20, the guy swung, the ball ballooned and it was comfortably taken. COme on - stop being such a Luddite.

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  20. @J - Ahhh - fine taste indeed :)

    Yes, apparently it was making fun at a suburb of Seoul where the nouveau riche live.

    @Ravi - Et tu Brut ? Then fall Caesar !

    Hit & Giggle ??? Lovely :)

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  21. In all fairness, PSY seems like a "nice enough" guy and he knows his hit song is just a novelty track. I don't think he sees himself as some musical messiah. I doubt he'd be interested in an interview with me and my station. He is too busy shmoozing with the likes of Ellen DeGeneres etc.

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  22. @Pranav - Can I offend your sensibilities by asking who Ellen DeGeneres is ?? :)

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  23. the only place where you can find a tough competition for your blogs is your comments section. we are so lucky to have the priviledge to have known both.

    this time, it is even better than ever because it did not have my stupid comments clogging the flow in between :-)

    Here goes my stupid views (given that i always take that liberty with you)

    First, i dont believe that Gangnam video would have hit that 400 M + views that facebook shows. I think, some smart tech cookie has found a way to hit that number.

    But having said that, given that every one is talking about, its still an achievement for the guy PSY. but not to the extent that world is talking about.

    I think what south korea has got right (as rightly pointed out by one your commenters - in the zeal to excel Japan), there is a high public spending in Research.

    However, by following Japan, they have created the same challenges that Japan got itself into - Ageing population which is where i believe China has an edge.

    I also believe that given the vastness and the imperfections that exist within China and its own ulterior political ambitions beyond the boundaries of their country, the black box economy is what works best. Otherwise, the chinese market will be suddenly thrown upon to challenges of transparency that they have no capability to handle. I feel, china can still handle the failure of Huawei, they have the scale for that, but they cannot hold the reigns if their horses prance. i dont think, they are ready

    B.t.w - seriously impressed with your Gangnam knowledge. you are amazing.

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  24. @Sandhya - No post is ever complete without a lovely comment from you. Next time you write the word stupid, I am going to bash you on your head :):)

    China actually has as much an ageing population problem because of the one child policy. They are ticking time bomb in terms of ageing. The country really best placed on this is India.

    Disagree that the Chinese can't handle transparency. In my belief, that's a myth. Its better to gradually transition to an open system rather than remain so bottled up - one day the pressure will explode.

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  25. Ellen Degeneres is a TV personality. She has our own show called the "Ellen" show. And yes, I am NOT offended. The only time I watched that show was when she had the distractingly attractive Kylie Minogue as her guest.

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  26. A nerdy follow-up:
    Caught this in the news feed:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-20053091
    Yes, Gangnam-style at the UN :)

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  27. @sriram - Oh yes, Ban Ki Moon , being Korean, has been asked a few times to do a Gangnam style jig. Now you are the only one still holding out :):)

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  28. Hey, dementia has not set in yet, and I remembered your post when I read this:
    http://t.co/EvDxbjPMIv

    "Chinese companies build iPads, high-speed trains and world-class telecom gear, but they can't seem to make their own fancy handbag."

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