All South Koreans Are To Become A Year Younger

| Updated: May 11, 2022 10:41 am

This time South Korea is in news. And no, not because of BTS. But the newly sworn in President, Yoon Suk-Yeol, who assumed office Tuesday morning. 

Bringing in freshness, he announced a slew of new rules. The most talked about being how all Koreans are “set to grow younger by a year.” 

Yes, you heard it right. South Koreans have a unique way of calculating age. When a baby is born it’s considered a year old. However, Yoon Suk-Yeol, wants to do away with this traditional system which has its origins in China. 

In other words, he wants to abolish the concept of Korean age” and standardise the way it is calculated in the rest of the world. In South Korea, when a baby is born it is considered a year old. As the year changes on January 1, the child gains one more year. South Koreans also count age based on their birth year and not days. A child born in December then is already two by January.

According to Lee Yong-ho, the chief of the President’s transition committee, the incoming administration took note of the different age calculations which resulted in “persistent confusion” and “unnecessary social and economic costs.” The change is to be implemented by early 2023 and would involve amending the existing law, not proposing new legislation. 

Seven out of 10 Koreans supported the change, according to pollster HanKook Research, which surveyed 1,000 adults in December last year.

The calls for the age counting to be standardised started this January when health authorities used the international age and Korean ages interchangeably to set guidelines for COVID-19 vaccine guidelines and policies, reports The Korean Herald. This created a lot of confusion.

Adding to the chaos is the fact that South Korea has three ways to count age. For legal and administrative processes, the country has been using the international counting system since 1962. 

In the other official way of counting age, babies are born at age O and gain a year annually on January 1. Under this system, someone born in December 2020 is already one by January, even if they don’t turn one until December 2021. The third is the ‘Korean’ age system where everyone is already a year old at birth and becomes older on New Year’s Day regardless of the birth date.

In 2019 and 2021, two separate lawmakers proposed legislation to back the international age system. However, the bills were not signed into law. 

Interestingly, the new President has shunned the official residence, “Blue House” for a newer complex, labelling the former as a seat of erstwhile Japanese Imperialism. 

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