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Abolition of Korean Age System and Introduction of International Age System๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ท

June 14, 2023

Ina Yoon

Koreans get younger! Abolition of the 'Korean Age' system

Hello. If you're Korean, you probably are anticipating the biggest news this June.
There's a significant change that not only benefits foreigners residing in Korea but also comes as welcome (?) news to Korean brothers and sisters.
When foreigners ask Koreans their age, most people answer with their "Korean Age," which can be one or two years more than their "International Age".
The Korean age, which had confused both the listener and the speaker, will change on June 28th.

1. What is the current Korean Age system?

In fact, Korea uses three types of age systems: 'full age,' 'counting age,' and 'year age.โ€™
The origins of the 'counting age' system, or the Korean age system, is not precisely known, but the most plausible hypothesis is that it's based on Confucianism, which counts the time a baby spends in the mother's womb as part of their life.
๐Ÿ‘ถ๐Ÿปย You're considered 1 year old the moment you're born.
Also, Koreans age with each new year. You've probably had tteokguk (rice cake soup) on January 1st.
For example, a baby born on December 31st is considered one year old when born, and turns two the next day, January 1st.
A 2-day-old baby becoming 2 years old? It's a fascinating Korean age system.

2. Where are Korean Age and International Age used?

In our daily lives, we use the 'counting age.'
However, we use full age (international age) in legal texts and contracts.
Things like the timing of elementary school enrollment and receipt of national pension are already based on full age.
The age for retirement and for eligibility to receive elderly transportation support also use international age.
It's not just about getting younger; the revision to full age can be seen as a change for convenience.
In fact, it's more an expansion of the use of full age, which was already being used in some areas. ๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ท

3. Are there exceptions?

โ—๏ธYes, there are exceptions.
There are currently 62 regulations applying the Korean 'year age,' and in revising the laws and administration to apply full age, some rules such as those for drinking and smoking have been explicitly stated to not apply full age. ๐Ÿบ
Military service law applies 'year age'.
Also, the age criteria for daycare, kindergarten, and elementary school enrollment, which are based on full age, will remain the same.
There will often be cases where the age varies among students in the same class, depending on their birthdays.
The government explained that as the use of international age becomes more familiar, the hierarchical culture strictly distinguishing a one or two year age difference will gradually disappear.
Hoping for a positive effect that can break down the culture that prioritizes age and hierarchy,
On June 28th, I can finally say I'm two years younger ๐Ÿ˜‰
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