The majority of South Koreans will soon be younger thanks to a law that has been enacted on Thursday and will change the way the nation determines a person’s age. The new rule will end the practice of categorising new-born babies as being one year old.
Both domestically and internationally, the “Korean age” system has led to confusion. Up until now Koreans were deemed to be a year old when born and a year is added every Jan. 1, regardless of their birth date. There is also a separate system called the “counting age”, mainly used to calculate the legal age to drink alcohol and smoke.
The international recognized method will be enforced from June 2023 and will be the only one permitted across all “judicial and administrative areas,” according to the parliament website. “The state and local governments shall encourage citizens to use their ‘international age’ and conduct necessary promotion for that,” it reads.
Though the systems origins are unclear, other East Asian nations including China and Japan once employed the system; however, this is no longer the case. Since 1960s medical and legal documents in South Korea have also used the international age calculation, now all documents will follow this method.
“The revision is aimed at reducing unnecessary socio-economic costs because legal and social disputes as well as confusion persist due to the different ways of calculating age,” Yoo Sang-bum from People Power party said.
According to the Post, Lee Wan-kyu, South Korea’s Minister of Government Legislation, noted that lowering the population’s age will probably have a positive impact. “People finding their age one or two years younger will create a positive social impact,” Wan-kyu explained. The minister conducted a poll in September, according to which more than 80% of South Koreans supported unifying the age-counting system.
Han Sae-eok, professor at Dong-A University in Busan said: “Korean age is not wrong; it is only a Confucian cultural custom, but it needs to be changed in order to reduce the gap between customs and institutions and to promote consistent and clear instruction.”