Qualifications of Men is a KBS variety show whose hosts – Lee Kyung-kyu, Kim Geuk-jin, Kim Tae-won, Lee Yoon-seok, Yoon Hyung-bin, Yang Joon-hyuk, and Jeon Hyun-moo – try to complete a new mission every week as designated by the show’s producers. Two weeks ago, Boohwal member Kim Tae-won had to conduct this elderly-folks choir in singing this K-pop medley. That’s right – halmonis and harabojis jamming to SNSD, G-Dragon, 2PM and the like. It’s as good as it sounds. Check it out below:
Sure, it’s somewhat moving to see a bunch of grandmas and grandpas singing along to the music of their grandchildren, but from a Western point of view, you have to squint to see it. For those in Asian cultures, however, the emotional value of such a performance is extremely obvious, if only because the division between the elderly and the young in Asian society is just as obvious. This especially applies to Korean culture, as these divisions of respect between the elderly and the young boil down to the language itself – different particles, different verb endings, even different verbs themselves are used when addressing elderly people. The reasoning behind this is, of course, a matter of respect and filial piety, which takes root in the Confucian principles adopted by many Asian cultures. But at the same time, it creates an inevitable separation between the generations.
For many Koreans, a performance like the one above serves as a rare bridge between the generational gap. It’s difficult for younger Koreans to build this bridge towards elderly Koreans simply because of social custom, which sometimes makes it difficult for younger and older Koreans to mutually understand each other. But when a choir of senior citizens sings and dances to ‘young-people music,’ it doesn’t cause younger Koreans to coo and sigh at how ‘cute’ or ‘adorable’ their grandparents are. It’s a symbol of a bridge between the generational gap that has long defined Korean society – and for Koreans young and old, that kind of connection is priceless.
Of course, it’s not to say that Western society grossly undervalues or patronizes the elderly (although one can easily make an argument supporting this idea), and it’s also not to say that all Westerners didn’t find any emotional attachment to the Qualifications of Men clip after viewing it. Rather, this video is notable because it captures a rare moment when the vast generational gap in Korean society becomes just a tad bit smaller than it was before. And for many Koreans, that’s something worth shedding a tear over.