January 28, 2023

Seoul: South Korea’s parliament has passed a bill to overhaul the country’s way of counting a person’s age, ending a system that counted newborns as one year old and meaning most citizens are about to to get younger.

The bill passed by the National Assembly on Thursday scraps the country’s widely used counting standard, the “Korean age,” which considered a new baby one year old at birth and added a year every January 1. This is the age most mentioned in everyday life.

A boy, whose Buddhist name is Da Sun, touches his freshly shaved head during a service to experience the life of Buddhist monks at Jogye Temple in Seoul, South Korea. Children now have the day they were born recorded as their official birthday.Credit:AP

President Yoon Suk-yeol sought the change when he ran for office this year. His government has said removing the Korean age system would avoid confusion in processing administrative and medical services.

“With the passage of the amendment today, all citizens of our country will be one or two years younger from June next year,” Yoon’s office said after the bill was passed.

The move would also avoid legal disputes around the age system on signed contracts and make it easier for citizens who are often one age at home and another as recognized by global standards.

Buddha’s birthday is celebrated every May 8 by South Koreans.Credit:AP

A separate system also exists for conscription or calculating the legal drinking and smoking age, where a person’s age is calculated from zero at birth and a year is added on 1 January.

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However, since the early 1960s, South Korea has also adopted the international standard for medical and legal documents of counting from zero at birth and adding a year to each birthday.

The confusing array of systems will disappear — at least on official documents — when the new laws requiring only the international method to be used come into effect in June 2023.

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