South Korean singer Psy may have virtually conquered the world with his sensational hit “Gangnam Style” and high profile celebrities, including U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon, may have had their moments mimicking his “horse dance.” But the Japanese don’t seem to be following the mass hysteria and South Koreans suspect territorial dispute between the two countries is the reason for Japan’s cold shoulder to “Gangnam Style.”
Though the song has had almost uniform reception in the West topping the British charts and currently at No. 2 on the U.S. Billboard ranking, in Japan it fell flat at No. 30 of Japan's iTunes chart, despite K-pop’s significant popularity in the island nation.
Rubbing salt on South Koreans’ collective wound, some Japanese music blogs have alleged that the song’s phenomenal hit count on YouTube is due to South Koreans using “bots” or automated viewing programs, according to an AFP report. “Gangnam Style” is currently at 531 million views and counting and has catapulted into the list of top 10 most-viewed videos in YouTube’s history.
The Korean Wave Research Institute, a nonprofit body established to promote South Korean popular culture around the globe, Monday responded to the theories of YouTube's manipulation saying the "outrageous" Japanese argument was "tantamount to doubting a world record in an Olympics marathon.”
Japanese skepticism about the song's popularity on YouTube "should be viewed as a primary school kid's jealousy and envy," the institute’s president, Han Koo Hyun, said in a press release.
Several reasons have been suggested explaining why the song failed to catch up in Japan, the most common suggestion pointing to the Dokdo/Takeshima islands dispute between Tokyo and Seoul.
South Korea says Dokdo was recognized by Japan as Korean territory in 1696 after a tussle between Korean and Japanese fishermen. But Japan claims sovereignty over the islands since mid 17th century and that Tokyo incorporated the islands into the modern-day Shimane prefecture in 1905. South Korea acted illegally by declaring them its territory in 1952, according to Japan.
The internet statistics suggests that Facebook has played a significant role in the viral spread of “Gangnam Style.” The point to be noted it that Facebook’s popularity in Japan is considerably lower than in the West and in heavily populated countries like India. A July survey by Neilsen Japan found that only 30 percent of Japanese with Internet connections used Facebook.
Other suggestions point to Japanese market sentiments to Psy, who didn’t release a Japanese language version of his song, a popular practice followed by several K-pop stars.