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South Koreans are getting a year younger, parliament rules

In a country that uses different age-counting systems, South Koreans will change to an internationally recognized style. They could lose one or two years when the change goes into effect in June.


South Koreans are becoming a year younger following a set of bills passed by parliament to unify the country's age system.
South Koreans are becoming a year younger following a set of bills passed by parliament to unify the country's age system. Ahn Young-joon | AP

You're not getting any younger — unless you live in South Korea.

South Koreans will soon become a year or two younger, following an official change to the country's age-counting system.

On Thursday, the country's parliament, called the National Assembly, passed a set of bills requiring the use of the international age-counting system, where age is based on birth date.

South Korea currently uses three age-counting systems, but most citizens abide by the "Korean age," where a person is 1 year old as soon as they are born, and gain one year on every New Year's Day. And a baby born on Dec. 31 would be considered 2 years old the next day.

The change will go into effect this coming June.

So technically, babies born from now until then could still go by the traditional "Korean age" system.

While a majority of South Koreans go by the "Korean age," most seem to support the move to the more widely used system, where a person is zero on the day they are born and gain a year every birthday.

More than 80% of South Koreans supported unifying the age-counting system, according to a September poll by the Ministry of Government Legislation.

And 86% said they would go by their birth date age in their daily lives, according to the poll.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol had promised to unify the country's age-counting systems on the campaign trail earlier this year, saying that they created "unnecessary social and economic costs."

South Korea has been tallying age by birth dates since the 1960s.

But while most East Asian countries have scrapped the traditional age-counting system, some have yet to follow suit.

For example, in China, which uses the nominal age-counting system, a person is considered 1 year old on the day they are born, and they gain a year on the Lunar New Year.

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Transcript :


Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep. South Korea seems to have discovered the fountain of youth. OK, not really. But their citizens are officially becoming younger. The country passed laws yesterday to change the way South Korea counts ages to match the international standard. Traditionally, Koreans were counted as being one year old when they were born and had a year added on every January 1. The change will now make all South Koreans at least one year younger on their official documents. It's MORNING EDITION. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.