17 going on 16: South Koreans to get younger on paper

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Dec 09 2022 11:53 AM

People wearing face masks walk on the street in Seoul, South Korea, Nov. 19 , 2021. Jeon Heon-Kyun, EPA-EFE/File 
People wearing face masks walk on the street in Seoul, South Korea, Nov. 19 , 2021. Jeon Heon-Kyun, EPA-EFE/File 

SEOUL — Where in the world can you shave a year or 2 off your age? South Korea -- which has just passed a set of bills to abandon its traditional system of calculating ages.

The current system, widely known as "the Korean age", recognizes people as a year old at birth and also adds a year to their age every Jan. 1 -- rather than on their birth date. 

But on Thursday, Seoul's National Assembly passed bills requiring the use of the international age-counting system for official documents. It will be implemented by June next year.

The decision was made to "resolve the social confusion caused by the mixed use of age calculations and the resulting side effects", the National Assembly said in a statement.

Besides the Korean age system, the country also has another method mostly used to determine the legal drinking and smoking age -- it counts one's age from zero at birth and a year is added on Jan. 1.

And it also uses the worldwide standard for some medical and legal records since the 1960s.

This means that, for example, as of Dec. 9, 2022, a person born on Dec. 31, 1992 is 29 under the international standard, 30 under the South's system of calculating the age to drink, and 31 under the "Korean age" method.

President Yoon Suk-yeol has been campaigning on the change, citing the administrative and social expenses resulting from having multiple ways of counting people's age. 

Some South Koreans were delighted by the news.

"I'm getting 2 years younger -- I'm so happy," one wrote on Twitter.

"I turned 2 years old so soon after I was born as I was born in December. Finally, I'm about to get my real age back!"

© Agence France-Presse

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