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Thursday, September 21, 2023

South Koreans Get Younger as Country Switches Age-Counting System

The change to age-counting based on the individual's birth date took effect on Wednesday

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Sadaf Hasan
Sadaf Hasan
Aspiring reporter covering trending topics

SOUTH KOREA: South Korea recently implemented a significant change to its age-counting system, resulting in South Koreans appearing a year or two younger. The nation has abandoned its traditional and increasingly unpopular method of calculating age and adopted the international standard instead.

The previous practice in South Korea considered individuals one-year-old at birth, taking into account the time spent in the womb. Additionally, everyone was considered to age by a year on January 1 each year, regardless of their actual birth date. However, as of Wednesday, the new age-counting system, based on the individual’s birth date, has come into effect.

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President Yoon Suk-yeol strongly advocated for this change during his presidential campaign last year, emphasizing that the traditional age-counting methods imposed “unnecessary social and economic costs.” Disputes have arisen in various areas, including insurance payouts and determining eligibility for government assistance programs.

The previous age-counting methods in South Korea included the “Korean age” system, where individuals were deemed one year old at birth and aged by one year every January 1. Consequently, a baby born on December 31st would be considered two years old the following day. 

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Another traditional system, known as the “counting age” system, designated a person as zero years old at birth and increased their age by one year on January 1.

Under the international standard, a person born on June 29, 2003, would be 19 as of June 28, 2023. However, under the “counting age” system, they would be 20, and under the “Korean age” system, they would be 21.

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According to a survey conducted in January 2022 by the local firm Hankook Research, three out of four South Koreans supported standardization. Responding to public sentiment, lawmakers decided last December to abandon the conventional counting methods.

Despite the change, many existing laws that rely on the “counting age” calendar year approach to determine an individual’s age will remain in effect. For instance, South Koreans can legally purchase cigarettes and alcohol in the year they turn 19, rather than on their actual birthday.

Although many East Asian nations previously used conventional age-counting techniques, the majority have now moved away from them. Japan adopted the international standard in 1950, and North Korea followed suit in the 1980s.

Also Read: From Ji Chang Wook to Hyun Bin: A Scorching Countdown of the 10 Sexiest Korean Actors


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