In One Country, Everyone Woke Up Younger Wednesday

South Korea officially ends its traditional way of determining age
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 28, 2023 8:27 AM CDT
In One Country, Everyone Just Became Younger
A street scene in Seoul, where everyone is now younger.   (Getty Images / Diversity Studio)

There's one country on the planet where people woke up younger on Wednesday. A new law took effect in South Korea that has reduced people's ages by one or two years. Historically, a baby born in South Korea was age one at birth and saw another year added each Jan. 1. That meant the "Korean age" of a child born on Dec. 31 would be 2 the next day. In December, Parliament passed a law to do away with all that and align the country with the "international age" system used by the wider world and used by South Korea in certain situations (ie, medical and legal documents) since the 1960s, reports Reuters.

CNN reports it won't be a 100% change though. Certain age-related cutoffs will still be based on birth year, meaning when it comes to starting preschool, the drinking age, and mandatory military service, people are eligible based on year of birth. That means a person born in January and another in December will be considered the same age. The BBC reports President Yoon Suk Yeol advocated the change during his campaign, citing the "unnecessary social and economic costs" of using the traditional method—such as determining when someone is eligible for age-related government assistance programs.

As for how this started, the Wall Street Journal reports it's "a remnant of ancient culture in East Asian countries," which tended to count the time spent in the womb as part of age; China and Japan did away with their own traditional systems decades ago. Anyone outside of South Korea who finds themself depressed by the aging process may be a bit jealous of Choi Hyun-ji's reaction to the change. "I was about to turn 30 next year, but now I have some more time earned and I love it," said Choi, who at 27 now has three more years until 30. (More South Korea stories.)

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