S.Koreans Are Now A Year or Two Younger Using Int’l Age System

On Wednesday, South Koreans experienced a decrease in their age by a year or two as new laws mandating the use of the international method of counting age came into effect, replacing the country’s traditional method.

Under the traditional age system commonly followed in Korean daily life, individuals are considered to be one year old at birth, and an additional year is added on each January 1st. Since the early 1960s, Korea has adopted the international standard of calculating age from zero at birth and adding a year on each birthday for medical and legal purposes. However, many Koreans continued to use the traditional method for other aspects of their lives.

In December, Korea passed legislation to eliminate the traditional age system and fully embrace the international standard. “We anticipate a significant reduction in legal disputes, complaints, and societal confusion that have arisen due to discrepancies in age calculation,” stated Minister of Government Legislation Lee Wan-kyu during a briefing on Monday.

According to a government survey conducted in September 2022, 86 percent of Koreans expressed their intention to utilize the international age system in their everyday lives once the new laws came into effect.

Ministry of Government Legislation / The Korea Herald

In Korea, individuals can purchase alcohol or tobacco starting from January 1st of the year in which they are turning 19, following the international age system. The Youth Protection Act defines a “juvenile” as someone below the age of 19. Under this system, individuals born in 2004, regardless of their specific birth months, are eligible to purchase these products this year.

“The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family stated that it will collaborate closely with relevant ministries to enhance educational and promotional activities. The goal is to establish a culture that embraces the international age system and to ensure awareness of other exceptions unaffected by the age calculation change,” the ministry mentioned.

Likewise, the traditional method of calculating age based solely on the year of birth, without considering the day or month, will continue to be applied on certain occasions. These include entering elementary schools, enlisting in the military, and taking public servant examinations.

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