Cho teaches K-pop that youth isn’t everything

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Cho teaches K-pop that youth isn’t everything

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Fans of veteran singer Cho Yong-pil greet him with cheers at an event held at Olympic Park in southern Seoul last Tuesday. The 63-year-old singer’s new songs dominate the K-pop scene after a 10-year-hiatus.[NEWSIS]

The K-pop scene has long been dominated by sleek young talents in their teens or not far out of them. But youth is not a requirement as 63-year-old veteran singer Cho Yong-pil has proven.

Cho’s new single “Bounce” is a hit, as is his new “Hello” - which happens to be his 19th.

“Bounce” immediately reached No. 1 on nine local music charts, competing with Psy’s global hit “Gentleman.” Preorders for “Hello,” Cho’s first album in a decade, reached 20,000.

Showbiz analysts and culture critics see in Cho’s renaissance a greater sense of appreciation for talents in their 50s and 60s who have been eclipsed in recent years.

A hoard of people - mostly grey-hairs - lined up at the Kyobo Bookstore in central Seoul last Tuesday to buy Cho’s new CD. In itself, this was a rare scene as the Korean music industry distributes most of its music through online downloads these days, many of them illegal channels offering K-pop songs for free.

Cho’s older fans are still willing to fork out real money.

On Tuesday, 1,200 copies of “Hello” sold at Kyobo Bookstore in a single day.

“It’s very rare that relatively old people come to the music section of the store and buy albums,” said Kim Eun-jeong, manager of the store.

The middle-aged shoppers appeared to find some courage and confidence in the singer’s comeback, especially the men.

“I became a little hopeless after retiring,” said Ko Gwang-mun, 54, who waited in line to purchase Cho’s CD at the store. “But while listening to his music and watching the comeback of a man over 60, I found hope and comfort.”

Choi Hang-seob, sociology professor at Kookmin University, said that the resurgence of the veteran singer has become a social phenomenon.

“Cho’s success has broken the perception that people in their 50s and 60s are mostly frail and dull,” the professor said.

“This is very symbolic because he conveyed a social message that middle-aged people can be active and enjoy their heyday,” he said.

But the appeal of the 63-year-old is not limited to people his age.

Teens and people in their 20s and 30s make up more than 50 percent of those who ordered tickets to concerts by Cho scheduled for May 31 and June 2.

In addition, people aged 19 to 35 accounted for 60 percent of those who bought the singer’s music through the online music Web site Melon.

“Cho Yong-pil was categorized as a singer for the older generation but now he appeals to young people,” said Han Hee-won, marketing manager of the Web site.

Cho’s not stuck in old ways either.

“He can appeal to young people because he accepted and reflected a new trend in the music industry,” said Chun Sang-jin, sociology professor at Sogang University. “His effort can turn into a meaningful step to ease the gap between old and new generations.”

By Chung Kang-hyun [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]

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