Korean People Could Become A Year Younger Under New Proposal
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People in South Korea could see a year shaved off their age under a new proposal that aims to standardise the official age system.
Currently, South Korea has several ways to count someone’s age, with the internationally recognised way of ageing people according to birthdays being just one of many.
One approach sees babies given an age of zero when they are born, gaining a year every 1 January. For example, a baby born in December 2020 was two years old by January 2022 – even though they don’t technically reach two until later this year.
Then there’s also the ‘Korean age’ system, which involves individuals being considered one year old at birth, before another year is added at New Year, regardless of their actual birth date.
Now, however, officials are looking to scrap the latter altogether, meaning people may suddenly become a year younger on paper if the country's president-elect Yoon Suk-yeol succeeds.
Lee Yong-ho, chief of Yoon's transition team's political, judicial, and administrative subcommittee, said during a press conference on Monday that they are hoping to streamline the way age is counted.
According to Yonhap News, Lee said the change is being pursued for practical reasons, adding: "Due to the different calculations of legal and social age, we have experienced unnecessary social and economic costs from persistent confusion and disputes over calculating age when receiving social, welfare and other administrative services or signing or interpreting various contracts."
While the Korean age system has its origins in various parts of Asia, it is believed that South Korea is the only country where it remains in use.
Kim Eun-ju, professor at Law and Policy at Hansung University, told the BBC: "Globalisation has made Koreans more aware of the international age. This has an impact on young people as they feel that Koreans are being ridiculed for [these counting systems]."
Shin Ji-young, professor at the Department of Korean Language and Literature in Korea University, added: "To South Koreans, figuring out if someone is older than them or not is more important than finding out somebody's name in a social context. It is essential in choosing how to address that person and the honorific or title which is required."
Experts generally agree on the administrative advantages of scrapping the system, but are divided on what the new measure will mean for society, with Jang Yoo-seung, a senior researcher at the Oriental Studies Research Centre in Dankook University, telling the news outlet that the Korean age is a reflection of tradition.
"Our society does not seem too concerned about abandoning tradition. Are we at risk of abandoning our own uniqueness and culture and becoming more monotonous?"
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