Everyone In South Korea Is About To Become One Year Younger

James Felton

James Felton

Senior Staff Writer

clockMay 11 2022, 12:52 UTC
The good news is you're about to get younger, but unfortunately 2021 still happened.

The good news is you're about to get younger, but unfortunately 2021 still happened. Image credit: tommaso lizzul/

Everyone in South Korea may be about to live the dream and become one year younger. While this might sound great, a lot of people will have to live through the ordeal of turning 30, 40, or 50 twice.

The incoming South Korean president Yoon Suk-yeol is planning to decrease people's age when he comes into office. As strange as that may sound, there is good reason for the move. In most countries, people turn one a year after they are born. In South Korea, it's a lot more complicated than that – it's possible that you could have a day-old baby who also happens to be 2.


There are currently three systems of aging in South Korea, with people who use the traditional Korean age system about to see the most time knocked off their age.

In the Korean age system, the moment you are born, you are considered to be a one-year-old. This is because the time you spent in the womb is counted as part of your life, even if you didn't really make the most of it. To make it even more complicated, under this system you don't age a year after your birth, but on New Year's Day. This means that if you were born at 11:58 on New Year's Eve, two minutes later you would turn two.

As well as causing a lot of extra pressure for a newborn (why the hell isn't she talking yet, she's two), the system is out of step with much of the world. There is another system – the New Year birthday system – that allows you to be 0 years old at birth, but still ages you every New Year's Day rather than on the day of your birth.


The most commonly used system is still the Korean age system, though some do use the international system where you are 0 at birth, and turn 1 a year later on the same day. As well as being plain confusing, it causes practical complications.

"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," Lee Yong-ho, chief of the transition team's political, judicial and administrative subcommittee said of the decision to bring everyone in line with international age.

Hopefully with the new system, when people are asked their age they will be able to answer with something other than "honestly I have no idea".

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