No other singer has made a music video that has been seen more than 1 billion times, as South Korea’s Psy has. By that measure, he’s the biggest pop phenomenon on the planet. His new song, “Gentleman M/V” has been seen 166 million times after just one week on YouTube. On its own, that’s a huge achievement.
But Psy wasn’t born a pop star.
He originally planned to go into business. His father is Park Won-Ho, the chairman of DI Corporation (which makes semiconductors) and his mum is Kim Young-hee, a restaurateur in the Gangnam district of South Korea.
In the late 1990s he went to Boston University to study business administration, but dropped out when his interest in music eclipsed his willingness to study, or even show up to class on time. He then briefly attended Berklee College of Music, but didn’t complete that course either. He spent his leftover tuition money on a computer, a keyboard, and a MIDI, and ultimately returned to Korea.
We received an email from someone claiming to be Psy’s former roommate during his time in Boston. While we can’t verify everything our source tells us — these are memories from 1996 – 1998, after all — they certainly dovetail with what we know about the pre-fame life of Psy (real name Park Jae-Sang).
At the time, his disinterest in studying was legendary among his friends, the roommate tells us:
… I will tell you the broad strokes.
I lived with him 97-98.
He was still fat. Lazy. Messy. Typical Korean-male studying abroad.
His family had money so he lived well.
He missed classes all day long. Flunked everything. When we ate and drank he would put on shows at the karaoke spots.
We used to grab his chubby cheeks and tell him to “wake up! You’re never going to make it in entertainment with a fat ugly face like yours!”
He would always respond with resolve. “I will make it! I’m going to be a star! Just you watch!”
That’s pretty much everything.
Psy, apparently, has had the last laugh.
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