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South Koreans Turn Younger Overnight Thanks to New Age-Counting Policy

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If anyone in South Korea was feeling a little self-conscious about their age, the citizens of the Asian State will be pleased to learn that their ages were set back by a year, potentially even two, as a newly-implemented regulation has just altered the traditional system of counting one’s annual solar return.

Up until now, nationals of the country were considered to be one-year-old at the moment of their birth, with a new year added on every Jan.  1, meaning that in some cases (the most unusual ones) an infant born on New Year’s Eve could turn two the moment clocks strike midnight.

The age-counting system, which has over time become quite unpopular amongst the younger stratum of society, has led most South Koreans to explain why they use two separate calendar ages when being asked how old they are, answering with both their “Korean Age” as well as with their “International Age,” which uses the universal method of counting from zero from the day you are born and adding a year after each birthday you celebrate.

However, as of last week, there is expected to be no more confusion as the country’s local system of age counting has been revised and has adopted global standards. Having approved the change in December 2022, the national assembly is hoping to “resolve the social confusion caused by the mixed use of age calculations and the resulting side effects” and hoping for the slew of “legal disputes, complaints, and social confusion that have been caused over how to calculate ages (to) be greatly reduced,” per Lee Wan-kyu, minister of government legislation to reporters.

According to a survey conducted last September, 86% of South Koreans claimed to be in favor of the switch, keen on adopting the revised method of counting into their daily lives as soon as the legislation is made official. With the new law passed last week, thousands of Koreans are delighted to learn that their journey through life has been made much simpler and more aligned with global norms, having also saved at least 12 or 24 months on their next expected birthday under the previous system of age counting.

Despite the recently implemented standardization, certain situations will still adhere to the previous age calculation method. For instance, the determination of a child’s entry into elementary school will continue to be based on the year following their sixth birthday in the international age, regardless of the specific month they were born. The same applies to laws pertaining to age-restricted products such as alcohol and tobacco, which will continue to rely on the year of birth, disregarding the month, with this same approach also being kept in South Korea’s mandatory military service, where eligibility will be determined by the year of birth rather than the precise age or birth date of individuals.

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