'Gangnam Style' star Psy receives prestigious South Korean honour
Psy receives South Korea's Okgwan Order of Cultural Merit for raising the country's profile
South Korea has awarded one of its highest cultural honours to rapper Psy for taking the world by storm with his Gangnam Style hit.
The culture ministry announced yesterday 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 was chosen 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 said.
Psy has rocketed to international fame since his 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 neighbourhood 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.
John Hirai, head of music at YouTube's Korea-Japan branch, said Psy would pass Bieber in about a month. The song has topped charts from Britain to Australia, and has been number two 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 Asia.
Psy is on a promotional tour in Europe that includes a speech at the Oxford Union and an appearance at the MTV Europe Music Awards in Germany.
Film director Kim Ki-duk, who won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival this year with his movie Pietà, will receive the Eungwan Order of Cultural Merit - which ranks higher than Psy's medal.