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K-pop mania poses hard questions for Malaysia

Groups seek local identity in the face of opposition from Islamic conservatives

The success of girl-group Dolla -- from left, Angel, Syasya, Tabby and Sabronzo -- is defining Malaysian pop. (Courtesy of Universal Music Malaysia)

KUALA LUMPUR -- In February 2013, I stood with thousands of Malaysians before an impromptu stage on the sports field at Han Chiang University in George Town, the capital of Penang State. "Are you ready?" The words of Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak cut the tension like a hot knife through butter.

No one was much interested in the now-disgraced Najib -- then the leader of Malaysia's ruling Barisan Nasional coalition; now out of office and sentenced to 12 years in prison for corruption (though not yet in prison). But we were itching to see Park Jae-sang, the South Korean K-pop sensation who performs as Psy and is best known for his hit song "Gangnam Style."

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