South Koreans do not just one age, but three – an “International Age,” a “Korean Age” and a “Calendar Age”. But to end confusion, the country’s parliament has decreed that from June 2023 all official documents must use the standard “international age”.
According to the new law, they get a year or two younger than their traditional ‘age’ counting system. This has been a long-running debate over this issue since some long time to bring the country inline with the rest of the world to avoid such legal discrepancies because of this multiple system.
A person’s “international age” refers to the number of years since they were born, and starts at zero – the same system used in most other countries. But when asked their age in informal settings, most South Koreans will answer with their “Korean age,” which could be one or even two years older than their “international age.”
Under this system, babies are considered a year old on the day they’re born, with a year added every January 1. In some circumstances, South Koreans also use their “calendar age” – a kind of mash-up between international and Korean age – which consider babies as zero years old the day they’re born and adds a year to their age every January 1.
Instance of the “Gangnam Style” singer Psy, for example was born on December 31, 1977, But, he is considered 44 by international age; 45 by calendar year age; and 46 by Korean age. This in normal parlance is still confusing even among themselves switching between the hodgepodge of different systems.
Most people use Korean age, which has its roots in China, in everyday life and social scenarios, while international age is more often used for legal and official matters – for instance, when dealing with civil laws. However, some laws – including those surrounding the legal ages for drinking, smoking, and military conscription – use calendar year age.
Thus, the law passed standardizes the use of international age across all “judicial and administrative areas,” according to the parliament website and documents related to the bill.
Therefore hereby, “The state and local governments shall encourage citizens to use their ‘international age’ and conduct necessary promotion for that”.
The decision is the result of years of campaigning by lawmakers fed up with the multiple systems. The revision is aimed at reducing unnecessary socio-economic costs because legal and social disputes as well as the confusion existent due to the different ways of calculating age.