This is based on a conversation I had earlier today. A Korean friend and I were talking about it’s sometimes hard for the younger generation to fully understand the older generation. It made me think of the various Korean American celebs who would complain about their “old school” parents and grandparents who didn’t keep up with changing times. It also made me think of the number of Korean parents and grandparents that I’ve heard complain about their children and grandchildren. So what makes older and younger Koreans clash so much anyway? There are too many factors to list all of them. So here are just a few that can be very common in today’s society.
The way of life that older Koreans had to live with is not what many Koreans have today. Korea used to be a very poor country, with some telling stories of people eating meat only a few times a year. For some Korean grandparents, they had to live under Japanese occupation and were forced to learn about Japanese language and culture. Some Korean parents remember a time when a son would get married and bring his wife to live in the same home as he, his parents and his grandparents. For many younger Koreans, they cannot truly understand what life was like back then. Whether they have grown up in the Western hemisphere or in modern day Korea, the struggles that younger Koreans and Korean Americans face are totally different than what their parents and grandparents faced. It’s not to say that the struggles today are better or worse than they were before, just different and difficult for some to understand.
The culture of Korea changes drastically over time. Traditional Eastern religions, thinking and way of life have been replaced with things from Western civilization. While younger ones are quicker to adapt, older ones often times struggle with this. An example of this would be that of taking care of one’s parents as they get older. Korean tradition states that the younger generation should take care of their parents as they get older and prepare for death. However, a poll taken in Seoul about a year ago stated that about half of Seoul’s residents that were polled felt it wasn’t their responsibility to provide and take care of their aging parents.
Even the traditional diet has changed. In Seoul, you will now find KFC, McDonald, Starbucks and other Western restaurants. Many have pushed off getting married, with some saying they see no need to get married and have children. Careers and education are put first for many over family life and spirituality. The independent spirit of younger Koreans, that is necessary for survival in many parts of this world, is not the spirit that many older ones can adapt to. Even though everyone is Korean, there can still be a culture clash that is harder to overcome.
The Language Barrier
Korean language is a language that will see to simplify itself over time. Also, as more Western ideas and inventions are brought to Korea, the words used to describe these items will cause the language to change. Older Koreans may be used to a more formal way of speaking and dismiss the way younger ones speak ask slang. However, this slang eventually becomes part of Korean language. Even some in their 40s admit they have trouble understanding some in their teens. And this is assuming that everyone is in Korea. When you are in a different country with a different language, things get even more complicated. To survive, or for the benefit of the family, many younger ones have to learn a different language like English or Spanish very quickly. As they use their new language more and more, their retention of Korean can become less and less. When two people have trouble understanding each other, clashes are bound to happen.
These situations are not hopeless. Things can improve over time as each side better understand each other. True it takes hard work to get this accomplished. But mainly, it takes love. The story of Korea is the story of love in all of its forms. Love moves one to try and understand someone better. So while a younger Korean is learning how to make their own Kimchi, an older Korean is learning how to use Kakao and use GPS while on the subway. Everyone can truly learn something from each other, and the clashes that happen between older and younger Koreans can become a cause of learning and understanding when they are solved with love.