Under the previous system, a citizen was deemed to be one year old on the day they were born
People in South Korea automatically became at least a year younger on Wednesday after Seoul opted to ditch its traditional age-counting methods to fall in line with international standards.
Under the now-obsolete previous system, a South Korean citizen was considered to be a year old when they were born, with a year being added every January 1. However, this method led to confusion for South Koreans visiting overseas, as well as bizarre situations where a child born, for example, on December 31 would become two years old on January 1.
The previous age-counting system caused “unnecessary social and economic costs,” the country’s President Yoon Suk Yeol said in April. Yoon was a strong advocate for making the switch throughout his presidential campaign last year. Polling at the time also indicated that more than 70% of South Koreans favored the move.
Seoul’s traditional age-counting method had also come under scrutiny from other lawmakers, who argued that it undermined South Korea’s reputation as a global technological powerhouse on the world stage.
South Korea’s legislature isn’t anticipating too many teething problems among its suddenly younger populace. “We expect legal disputes, complaints and social confusion caused over how to calculate ages will be greatly reduced,” Minister Lee Wan-kyu said at a press briefing on Monday, according to the Korea Times.
“It feels good,” he added. “For people like me, who were supposed to turn 60 next year, it makes you feel like you’re still young.”
The newly de-aged South Koreans won’t see their ability to purchase cigarettes or alcohol impacted under the rules, provided that they were old enough to do so before the change was made. Nor will it impact eligibility for the 21 months of compulsory military service that all able-bodied males are required to do.
The reason why the previous system was adopted generations ago remains unclear. One theory is that it took into account a person’s time spent in the womb, and rounded nine months up to one year. Another is that an archaic Asian numerical system had no numerical concept of zero.
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