- South Korea officially switches to "international age" system, reducing societal confusions and disputes caused by the use of different age standards.
- Despite the new standard, traditional age systems will still apply in certain scenarios like mandatory military service or age-restricted product purchases.
- Survey reveals that over 86% of South Koreans are in favor of the change, marking a victory for proponents of age standardization.
South Korea woke up to a legal change that made the citizens feel younger by a year or two on Wednesday. The new regulation mandates the adoption of the “international age” system across all judicial and administrative sectors, finally putting an end to years of debate surrounding the previously used “Korean age” and “calendar age” systems.
The Minister of Government Legislation, Lee Wan-kyu, expressed that this unification of age standards would alleviate societal misunderstandings and discord during a news briefing on Monday. This legislative change, sanctioned by South Korea's Parliament last December, also aims to eliminate unnecessary societal costs resulting from the mixed use of age norms, a crucial promise made by President Yoon Suk-yeol who took office last May.
South Koreans traditionally used three different systems to state their age. The "international age" starts at zero, which is the standard used in most countries. However, in informal contexts, they would typically refer to their "Korean age," which is one to two years older than their international age. This age system, originating from China, considers a newborn to be a year old, with an additional year added every January 1.
The "calendar age" is another system used, a hybrid of international and Korean ages, treating newborns as zero years old and adding a year every New Year's day. This multiplicity of systems could lead to confusion, with citizens often oscillating between them.
Even with this fresh standardization, the old systems will continue to persist in certain scenarios, the government revealed on Wednesday. Age-restricted products like alcohol or tobacco will still be based on the birth year, ignoring the birth month. This implies that two individuals born in January and December 1990 are considered the same age. The same rule applies for the mandatory military service.
As Lee Wan-kyu mentioned, some exceptions will remain post-revision for easier yearly management. There's a likelihood that many citizens will stick to the traditional Korean age system in their daily life and social interactions. However, the majority might embrace the change; in a survey by the Ministry of Government Legislation, over 86% of participants indicated they would adopt the international age system. This signifies a victory for legislators who have strived for years to standardize the international age, exasperated by the multiple systems.
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