K-pop star Psy caught up in political fight in Penang
State's ruling camp vows to spoil BN party
Korean pop star Psy will perform at the Chinese New Year open house in Malaysia's Penang by Barisan Nasional (BN), the country's ruling coalition, but opposition backers plan to show up wearing their party colours
For the past six months, Korean pop star Psy has stormed the popularity charts with his hit song "Gangnam Style", inspiring millions to copy his unique horse-riding dance style.
This week, however, the 35-year-old rap star from Seoul rode into a different sort of glare, and not all of it is warm.
Psy, short for Psycho, has been invited to perform on Monday in the northern state by the ruling BN. It is seeking to ride on his popularity to improve its standing with voters in the state, who have stayed resolutely with the opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP).
Psy, whose real name is Park Jae Sang, will perform "Gangnam Style" in front of Prime Minister Najib Razak and 60,000 guests at the BN's Chinese New Year open house.
But what appeared to be a coup for the BN in reaching out to youth was swiftly hijacked by the opposition, underscoring the battle for voters at the upcoming general election.
Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said he welcomed Psy's visit, which was announced last Saturday, but urged locals to show up in colours associated with the opposition.
"Barisan thinks it can win Penang with Psy the final swing factor, but we will let the people decide," he said.
Penang DAP's youth wing has even started a "Wang Lee Hom" campaign through social media, a play on a popular Taiwan-based singer's name.
"Wang Lee Hom" sounds like "yellow, green, red" in Mandarin. The colours represent the electoral reform group Bersih, environmental group Himpunan Hijau and the DAP respectively.
Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin retorted on Tuesday that Lim was being "silly".
"He is being disrespectful to the rights of others to celebrate Chinese New Year," he said. "As a state leader, he must respect the rights of others to hold such events."
Tan Sri Muhyiddin, who was in Penang to visit BN grassroots leaders, also dismissed allegations that the BN was using public funds to pay for Psy's performance, which media reports estimate would cost at least US$300,000 (Bt9 million).
Muhyiddin said that fees for Psy are covered by local sponsors.
Some opposition supporters have taken their unhappiness online, setting up at least two Facebook pages urging him to stay away.
They have also flooded Psy's own Facebook page. Many of them repeatedly pasted a lengthy message onto the comments section of his entries, claiming that while they love his song, he will "become a political tool" and his "performance will be politicised by Barisan Nasional" if he visits Malaysia.
"Mr Psy, you can definitely dance with anybody, including Mr Ban [Ki Moon, the UN secretary general and a compatriot of Psy] but never Mr Najib Razak," said the message.
Psy has not commented on the furore stirred up by his visit so far. But Lim Sue Goan, deputy editor-in-chief of Chinese newspaper Sin Chew Daily, called the fuss irrational.
"How many votes can be fished and would the horse-riding dance affect the election result?" he asked in a commentary.