How old is that kid, anyway?

My grandson turned 5 a few weeks ago. Or did he?

As Koreans traditionally count age, he would have been 1 year old on the day he was born, and would have been 2 in January, so he would have been 6 going on 7. I know! Confusing! Fortunately, to simplify everything, his parents have used the common American dating scheme. It looks like South Korea is going to standardize their age on the model used by the rest of the world.

South Koreans are set to become one or two years younger after the country’s parliament on Thursday passed laws to abolish the traditional method of calculating age.

This traditional method, which will be replaced by the system used elsewhere in the world on June 2023, declares people a year old at birth and adds a year to their age every Jan. 1 — even if they were born just the day before.

That’s nice. I was worried that every time I would visit Korea I’d get a year older.


  1. birgerjohansson says

    Also, it depends on which planet that is used to define “year” and how long time they have spent in cryogenic suspention.

  2. chigau (違う) says

    Those systems count your age as “the number of calendar years you have lived in”, rather than “how long it has been since you were born”.

  3. moarscienceplz says

    Koreans need to add a couple of years to make up for the years they lose due to the heavy smoking so many of them do.

  4. says

    chrislawson@5 I’ve been listening to a Japanese project called Code of Zero lately, which uses the moto “Everything starts from 0.” I’m not sure what came first, the moto or the brains behind Code of Zero calling herself 0C.

  5. OverlappingMagisteria says

    The way I think of Korean ages is not by how old you are, but “how many calendar years you have been alive during.” Using the Lunar calendar, of course. So the day you are born, you have already been alive during one of the calendar years. Once Lunar New Year passes, you have been alive for two of them, etc.

  6. Howard Brazee says

    I’m guessing this is South Korea that’s changing. What is the standard in North Korea?

  7. woozy says

    Well, a nice thing about that system is it avoids the fence-post issues of people wanting to say “On my Nth birthday” when actually it had to have been their N+1th birthday.

  8. birgerjohansson says

    Meh. We need a really complex system like the one used by the Maya.
    One secular year (NOT 365 days) and a religious year (also not 365 days).
    Every fifty years or so the two cycles meet and start anew.
    Also, we need to adopt the complex pre-modern Japanese daily way of measuring the hour of the day.
    And the optimal money is the old non-decimal British coinage.
    That way, the commoners will be so busy coping they have no time to revolt.

  9. Rich Woods says

    @Howard Brazee #10:

    What is the standard in North Korea?

    You are whatever age the Supreme Leader guesses you are, and obsequiously grateful that he’s deigned to notice your worthless existence.