Korea May Be Doing Away With “Korean Age” In Favor Of International Age Reckoning

Korea may be doing away with the traditional “Korean age,” which at times results in a two-year age difference with the more widely-used international method of age calculation.

January 3, reports revealed that Assemblyman Hwang Ju Hong of the Party for Democracy and Peace submitted a proposal to the National Assembly for the establishment of a law that requires age to be calculated by international reckoning and to be recorded as such on official documents.

The proposal suggests that official documents require age to be recorded as the number of years passed since date of birth as well as the number of months, if a full year has yet to pass. It also asks that the international method of age reckoning be encouraged for use in day-to-day calculations.

Assemblyman Hwang said, “There has long been criticism that the traditional ‘counting’ calculation of age, by which someone is considered one year old upon birth and becomes a year older every new year [on January 1], is a far cry from the age calculation that is generally used internationally.”

Moreover, age calculation methods in Korea differ depending on purpose. Day-to-day calculation uses the “counting” method described above, while, depending on the law, either international reckoning or “year” age is used, through which age is calculated by subtracting one’s birth year from the current year.

To say that this can be confusing would be an understatement. For example, Psy, born on December 31, 1977, was considered two years old one day after his birth. On December 30, 2018, Psy was 42 by “counting” age, 40 by international reckoning, and 41 by “year” age.

Adding to the how-old-are-you-really chaos is the societal custom of considering those born in January or February the same age as those born the previous year, yet another reason, claims Assemblyman Hwang, that international reckoning should be used across the board.

He said, “Of the East Asian countries that had used the traditional ‘counting’ method — Korea, China, Japan — Korea is the only one that is still using it in tandem to other methods. In order to prevent confusion and inconvenience, there is a need to make public the matter of unifying our age calculation system.”

However, some Koreans have protested the idea online, wondering how the new system, if approved, would affect matters of hierarchy and formal language.

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