South Koreans Become Younger as New Law Aligns Age-Counting Methods

By | June 28, 2023

South Koreans have witnessed a significant change that has made them appear younger due to the implementation of a new law. This law aims to align the nation’s age-counting methods with international standards, thereby eliminating discrepancies between the two systems.

Abolishing Traditional Age-Counting Methods

The recently enacted law eliminates the two traditional age-counting systems in South Korea. The first system regarded individuals as one year old at birth, including the time spent in the womb. The second system incremented everyone’s age by one year every 1st of January, rather than on their actual birthdays. These outdated methods have caused various social and economic complications.

Birth Date-Based Age-Counting

As of the implementation of this law, age-counting is now determined based on an individual’s birth date. This shift brings South Korea in line with global practices. President Yoon Suk-yeol played a vital role in advocating for this change during his presidential campaign. He emphasized that the traditional age-counting methods incurred unnecessary social and economic burdens.

Resolving Disputes and Enhancing Accuracy

The old age-counting systems have led to conflicts regarding insurance payouts and determining eligibility for government assistance programs. The adoption of birth date-based age-counting addresses these issues and ensures a fair and accurate assessment of an individual’s age. This change brings clarity and consistency, preventing disputes from arising due to conflicting age calculations.

From “Korean Age” to Birth Date-Based Counting

Previously, South Korea primarily employed the “Korean age” system, which originated centuries ago. According to this system, individuals were considered one year old at birth and gained an additional year every 1st of January. Consequently, a baby born on 31st December would be regarded as two years old the following day. Another traditional method, known as the “counting age” system, assigned zero as the age at birth and incremented it by one every 1st of January.

Public Support for Standardization

The decision to standardize age-counting methods received overwhelming support from the South Korean public. According to a poll conducted by local firm Hankook Research in January 2022, three out of four South Koreans favored the adoption of international standards. This demonstrates the general consensus that the change was necessary and beneficial for the society as a whole.

Transition and Continuity

While the new law signifies a departure from the traditional counting methods, certain existing statutes will continue to rely on the “counting age” calendar year system. For instance, South Koreans will still be able to purchase cigarettes and alcohol when they reach the age of 19 based on this system. It is important to note that these exceptions reflect the gradual transition and ensure a smooth adaptation to the birth date-based age-counting method.

A Global Trend

South Korea’s decision to align its age-counting methods with international standards reflects a global trend. Many East Asian countries, including Japan and North Korea, have already adopted the international age-counting system. Japan made the transition in 1950, while North Korea followed suit in the 1980s. South Korea’s alignment with this global norm further promotes consistency and facilitates international communication and cooperation.

In conclusion, the recent implementation of the birth date-based age-counting system in South Korea has brought about a positive transformation. By discarding the outdated methods and aligning with international standards, South Koreans can now accurately determine their age and avoid unnecessary social and economic complications. This change represents a significant step towards standardization and harmonization with the global community.

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