To Gangnam, Seoul’s ritzy nouveau-riche district, where the annual conference of the International Bar Association kicked off last week. This year the kicking was literal – a heart-stopping taekwondo display at the opening session before we were led by traditional musicians and lantern-bearing guides to an opening reception showcasing Korean culture down the ages.
Seoul, a strong contender as the world’s most happening city, had plenty to show off. Perhaps because many of the 6,000 lawyers in attendance were making their first visit, the hosts really made an effort. The entertainments ranged from classic Korean opera, to handicrafts, to video games and break-dancing.
And, as we were in Gangnam, there had to be a live performance of the 2012 hit (3.4 billiion YouTube views) Gangnam Style, with all the dance moves.
For any old-school judges reading, this popular music video shows a Korean rap artist known as Psy showing off in a series of glamorous settings. The chorus goes: ‘Eeeeeh, sexy lady/Op, op, op, op/Oppa Gangnam style’.
Now, anyone who tried that at home might be accused of sexual harassment. But of course Psy is taking the Mickey. ‘Oppa’– literally ‘big brother’, but colloquially ‘your boyfriend’ – is a flash Harry risibly trying to pass himself off as a high-class catch with blingy accessories, equestrian skills (the horse dance) and a couple of words of English. (Think Del Boy in Fools and Horses, or the Bhangra Muffins in Goodness Gracious Me.)
Koreans, who like other people have suffered a raw deal from history, can laugh at themselves. Obiter was relieved to see that the global profession can, too.
The more so since, outside, the host committee put on a night of the latest K-Pop talent. Again, for the benefit of readers who don’t have teenagers in the family, K-Pop is all about impressively synchronised troupes of good-looking youngsters gyrating in revealing clothing. Obiter was a little surprised that so many middle-aged lawyers were fans of the driving beats.
Alas we had to cut and run early, so as to be up for the morning session on sexual harassment in the legal profession.