South Korea may be looking to officially end usage of the country’s traditional age system in favor of the standard international method for counting age.
In “Korean age,” a child is considered to be 1 year old at birth, and becomes a year older every New Year’s Day. Thus, a child born on Dec. 31 of any given year will turn 2 years old the next day.
Calculating age in this way can lead to discrepancies of either one or two years with respect to the international standard.
The system has origins in China, but is today used commonly only in Korea.
That may soon be coming to an end, however, thanks to a proposal submitted by Hwang Jae-hong of the Party for Democracy and Peace, according to Insight via Soompi. The bill would establish a law requiring the international counting system to be used on all official documents, and encouraged for use in day-to-day life.
“There has long been criticism that the traditional ‘counting’ calculation of age, by which someone is considered one year old upon birth and becomes a year older every new year [on January 1], is a far cry from the age calculation that is generally used internationally,” Hwang said.
Currently, both Korean age and international age are used to varying degrees in Korean society, with the former method preferred in common parlance and the latter used in most legal contexts.
Hwang hopes the consolidation of age calculation to one standard method will eliminate societal confusion and inefficiency.
“Of the East Asian countries that had used the traditional ‘counting’ method — Korea, China, Japan — Korea is the only one that is still using it in tandem to other methods,” he said. “In order to prevent confusion and inconvenience, there is a need to make public the matter of unifying our age calculation system.”