Truth Behind “Gangnam Style”

By now, you must have already listened to (and perhaps got tired of) the hit song, “Gangnam Style” by Korean celebrity Psy. Despite its fame, most people are not even aware of what “Gangnam” really means, or the song’s true message. While being in Korea during this winter break, I decided to provide you with a little fun fact about this song.

Gangnam, South Korea (6PM)

As a Korean, I have lived in and visited Gangnam several times. Gangnam, or “강남” in Korean, is a metropolitan district in the heart of Seoul, South Korea. With its trendy shops, restaurants, bars, high-rise buildings and spectacular nightlife, Gangnam is not only one of the most crowded areas in Korea filled with young Korean folks through day and night, but a “must-go” place for the tourists.


An Alleyway in Gangnam (Past Midnight)

However, “Gangnam Style”, in actuality, is an expression associated with the lavish, affluent lifestyles of the people living in Gangnam district. The song satirically mocks the culture of heavy capitalistic consumption and materialism which followed the rapid economic growth in South Korea. At first glance, Psy’s video does seem to be simply “ridiculous”. However, his work is in fact criticizing the fact that the country once built on hard work and aspirations by the earlier generations is starting to focus solely and excessively on wealth, status, and appearances. The seemingly lighthearted song portrays Psy doing crazy, silly things on the set to appeal to the viewers; but as he drops his clownish appearances in an interview, he admits that “each frame by frame (in his work) was hollow”, just like how he feels about the “current human society”.

What seems to be silly and cheery on the surface of the song actually serves to heavily satirize people’s blinded pursuit for prosperity and status, which is common among neighborhoods other than Gangnam, and countries outside of South Korea. Perhaps, when you listen to this overwhelming, “in-your-face” infectious song next time, you should try having this dark yet socioeconomically insightful perspective in your mind.

Not In My Blood

In which Daniel misses his kitchen, and it has nothing to do with his ethnicity.


To my dear reader,

The first question posed at the Men of Color Club’s Adjusting to Life at Puget Sound Open Discussion was “What do you miss about home?” Although a seemingly unassuming question, the implication to the twenty-odd university students, of a multitude of ethnicities, was clear: “Did you miss your home culture when you arrived at a school so dominated by white students and faculty?” Most answers responded to this implication, expressing a yearning for students’ home languages and habits. My answer was “my kitchen’.

This inevitably made some people laugh and some people uncomfortable. The people that laughed probably thought that I was being cute or silly, while the people that became uncomfortable probably thought I was being disrespectful or rude. None of these things are true.

I miss my kitchen because that is where I might find my golden retriever laying on the floor, waiting for me to use her tummy as a pillow. That is where my mother and I once tried (and spectacularly failed) to make a German Black Forest Cake, and where one of my sisters and I took turns playing the video game Skyrim on her laptop. That is where I have sat to watch the wind through the treetops in the back yard, and where I have written some of my best fiction, and where I used to go first thing in the morning for a cup of Irish Breakfast Tea. This is the nature of my kitchen.

Of course these things are not irrelevant to my ethnicity – or more specifically, from that of my white father. He is an incredibly intelligent, extremely hard working biomedical research director that may have never achieved his place in his profession were he not white. So many of the wonderful memories I have of my kitchen at home would not be possible if my family was not reasonably well-off, and we would not be well-off if my father was not such an incredibly intelligent, extremely hard working man that society had rewarded, and society would not be nearly as willing to reward my father were he not the ethnicity he is. This is not his fault. This is the nature of our world.

Yet at the same time, what I miss from home has nothing to do with my ethnicity. I say this because none of things I mentioned have to do with Eastern European culture or Filipino culture. My parents were raised by their parents to be American, not to have the cultures of their ancestors. It is not a good thing or a bad thing, but as a real thing. My grandparents all thought, “If I raise my child to be a good American, then they will have a better chance at being a successful one too.”

My father’s forefathers came across the Atlantic from somewhere distant and cold where the soup was probably thick and the socks probably thicker. My mother’s forefathers came across the Pacific from somewhere where the sun was probably bright and the flowers probably brighter. But I am an American; I know Thanksgiving stuffing, and Tylor Swift’s 1989 album, and that New York is allegedly a place of great dreams and skyscrapers but also of great disappointment and overcrowded apartments. I have no more right to claim Eastern European or Filipino culture as mine than a Brazilian does Norwegian culture. It is not in my blood; it was in my ancestor’s lives, and is not in mine.

I am certain that those cultures are completely beautiful and fascinating in their own right. But they are not what has defined me. It is not a good thing or a bad thing, but a real thing. This is the nature of my identity.

I stand by my answer of “my kitchen,” because although I respect the Men of Color Club, I will not identify myself by the pigmentation of my epidermis or the daily practices of ancestors I will never know, even if others will. The lack of cultural and ethnic diversity at this university truly must be discussed, and the dialogue fostered by the open discussion is important and truly must happen. But I will participate as a student and an American and an empathetic human that cares with a heart as wide as a cosmos, and not as a “person of color.”

It matters not to me what my ancestors did or where they came from; it matters what I do and where I am going.


With all due respect,

Daniel Wolfert

How to “Create Dangerously”

Hello, I’m Olivia Perry, a senior and Social Media Assistant for The Admission Office.

I wanted to share my amazing experience last night that was provided to me by this great school!

I was invited by President Ronald Thomas to join him, his wife, Mary, professors, faculty, and students to have dinner with acclaimed Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat! As a Creative Writing major, and as someone who read her in a class at Puget Sound, I was very excited to see Ms. Danticat lecture “Create Dangerously”, and to meet her was a bonus!

Edwidge Danticat and I at the reception/book signing after her lecture

Edwidge Danticat and I at the reception/book signing after her lecture

At dinner, President Thomas opened up the floor to ask Ms. Danticat questions, an opportunity I was quick to take. I first asked when she decided that she wanted to be a writer. She told us that she was given the book Madeline when she was four. When she realized this was a way to tell stories without verbally telling them, she decided that was what she wanted to do.

Found on Pinterest from

Found on Pinterest from

I later asked if she had any advice for a writing major, a specifically woman of color, and her advice was something that I took to heart. She told me that I just need to write. I should always have a project to work on as leisure. As someone who feels the need to explain herself, a woman of color needs to not be deterred in anyway from what she has chosen to study and create. And as she spoke, she looked right into my eyes, giving me a sense of how genuine she is.

Her lecture, Create Dangerously, named after her 2010 book Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist At Work, was not as long as expected but was full of insightful anecdotes and ideas. She spoke of writers becoming the reader and what should and shouldn’t be written about. When she was finished, she answered questions regarding education and politics in Haiti and the Caribbean and shared her excitement for the next generation of, not only Haitian, all up and coming Caribbean writers.

They were selling her books at the lecture and reception, so naturally I bought one and she signed it for me!


My new book


“To Olivia, keep writing. One day, I hope to read you. In Sisterhood! -Edwidge Danticat”

Last night was a great event that I would never have experienced if I did not come to this school and become involved around campus. As a senior, I have to say, go to as many lectures as possible! I have gotten to see amazing and well known people, like Junot Diaz and Anis Mojgani, speak in my years here. It is a great opportunity that current and future students should always be taking advantage of!


The Community Conversation

While we were unsure if spring would actually come with all the rain and summer suddenly pooped up on us, one is for sure, excitement and conversation is in the air at Puget Sound. I love how welcoming and varied our campus us in activities, individuals, groups all with the same passion for learning, helping others and being a part of the bigger world outside the Puget Sound bubble.

I’m not exactly sure how it started but opinion pieces and guest blogs in Puget Sound publications, such as the Trail and Wetlands began to gain a lot of buzz. And these weren’t frilly op-eds about the political scene but about student opinions about the diversity and culture of Puget Sound. While some people have heard or read some of these articles and felt disgust or brushed them off, I however was pleasantly surprised and intrigued. Surprised that this topics were occurring on campus that I have not personally been affected nor subject towards but pleasantly so that Puget Sound does foster a strong welcoming environment that students can feel safe and make a difference sharing their views.

It’s especially hard to share your thoughts, as unpopular as they may be because the discussion may not be welcome and the path towards resolving the problem is often rough. However, I applaud the courage for these individuals to challenge the students, our community and university to step up and address these concerns; to ensure the safe and compassionate nature of the small liberal arts education Puget Sound provides makes every individual feel welcome. Being at Puget Sound has opened up my eyes to the multiplicity of awareness and support of everything that makes people unique, and I am willing to continue to follow along and participate in these conversations.

Here are links to the two websites of Wetlands & the Trail that contain the guest blog and articles about diversity, culture appropriations and the inclusiveness of our community.;

Lu’au 2014

One of the best parts of going away to college when you’re from Hawaii is the Lu’au. For one thing, lu’aus are a big deal yeah, but they involve a LOT of work and planning and people that traditional lu’aus aren’t an everyday or even monthly thing. Graduation parties, weddings, and other big celebrations may merit a lu’au or if we decided to go on a staycation and visit the Polynesian Cultural Center’s (tourist must!) traditional lu’au activities- Makahiki games, traditional Hawaiian games to celebrate the New Year, and performances of hula, haka, fire-dancing, poi balls and a delicious Hawaiian buffet! Lu’au is a great way to remember and share the culture of Hawaii, the food, the people, and the music!

Luau poster

Our lu’au’s theme this year was Ka’ Aina, Ka Makani, Ke Ahi, and Ka Wai which means earth, wind, fire and water, the four elements of life! For the performance many students from Hawaii and all over the country learned to dance kahiko, tahitian, maori, women’s slow and couples dances to name a few. Besides student dancers, the luau committee chairs publicized the event to the community recruiting children & faculty to perform their own hula as well. A live band, lighting & sound company and Dining Services were also selected to help create an authentic Hawaiian experience! Hawaiian recipes and fresh pineapple were brought in to present a feast for all to enjoy before the performances. A group of guys actually Luau would not have been possible with all the help and community spirit of Puget Sound to put on another successful luau!


The imu group of guys, the dug a deep hole put in the hot coals, banana leaves & whole pig to cook for over 24 hours!

With each dance practice, rehearsal, decoration making and food prep, I was reminded of how amazing Hawaii is. The Hawaiian band would perform local favorites such as Hawaiian Superman and share that aloha spirit slipping into pidgin english, ho brah! \m/ Despite many people from Hawaii coming from rival schools we all are from Hawaii and have bonded over that love for home and sharing that with our new friends here. It was an amazing night, all the company, delicious food  and many more happy memories of this semester! I can’t wait to start thinking about next year’s luau!



The kahiko lovely dancers (I did this one)!