Your Idols Will Be A Year Younger From Wednesday: South Korea Adopts International Age System

The traditional Korean age counting system will be scrapped.

Starting this Wednesday, every South Korean citizen will feel a bit younger as the country is finally scrapping the traditional system of counting age.

This massive change was one of President Yoon Suk Yeol‘s main promises during his election campaign. Government Legislation Minister Lee Wan Kyu says this simplification aims to cut down on the head-scratching and disagreements caused by having different ways to count age.

Lee Wan Kyu | Korea Times

Now, you might be asking, “Different ways to count age?” Yep! Traditionally, in Korea, there were three ways to calculate age. First, there’s the “Korean age,” where you’re considered a year old right after being born. Then there’s the international way, where you don’t age up until your actual birthday. And finally, there’s a system where everyone just ages up on New Year’s Day.

To make this easier to understand, here’s an example. If you were born in December 2000, you would be considered 24 years old under the traditional Korean age system. But, starting Wednesday, you’re going to officially turn 22 since you haven’t celebrated your birthday yet this year.

TXT’s Soobin was born on December 5, 2000. | @TXT_members/Twitter

Though these legal modifications were approved by the National Assembly last December they will only be officially implemented starting Wednesday. This means that going forward, Koreans will adopt the international age counting system for most social and legal contexts, like contracts and official documentation, unless a distinct method of age calculation is specified.

As the harmonization of the age system aims to alleviate any unnecessary societal costs and confusion, there are also exceptions where the changes will not be implemented for that exact reason.

BTS’s V, now considered 29 years old, will be 27 starting Wednesday. | @thv/Instagram

For kids starting school, for example, the new rule won’t apply. They’ll still start school in March the year they turn six internationally, no matter when their birthday falls. That means all children born in 2016 are off to school this year, regardless of whether their birthday has already occurred or not.

And while it might feel a bit strange for students of different ages to be in the same grade, the ministry is confident everyone will get used to it. Just like how university students of different ages share classes, it’ll become the new normal.

Newjeans’ Hyein, considered 16 years old now, will be aged 15 starting Wednesday. | SBS Inkigayo

The ministry is also planning to work with the Ministry of Education and other education offices to make sure the transition goes smoothly and doesn’t create too much confusion.

Other areas where the change won’t apply include the legal drinking and smoking age, public servant examination eligibility, and the age Korean men have to enlist in the military. They will all still follow the New Year-based age system. So, any citizen born in 2004 can still drink, smoke, or take a conscription examination this year, no matter what month their birthday falls in.

Source: Korea JoongAng Daily