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The New Age System of South Korea: Turning people younger and creating complications?

South Koreans are now officially a year or two younger under a new law that took effect on June 28, 2023. The traditional age-counting system, which added a year to a person's age every January 1st, has been replaced by the international method of counting age based on the actual date of birth. This change aligns South Korea with international standards and practices and aims to reduce legal disputes, complaints, and social confusion that have been caused over how to calculate ages.


The adoption of the international age system carries several benefits for South Korea. It facilitates interactions with the rest of the world, as the international age system is the standard in most countries. This change will make it easier for South Koreans to travel, study, and work abroad, as international documents such as visas and passports rely on the international age system. Additionally, the new law reduces the administrative burden on the government since the international age system is already used in most South Korean laws and official documents.

The public response to the new law has been mixed. Many South Koreans welcomed the change, expressing that they feel younger under the new age system. President Yoon Suk Yeol's campaign promise to standardize international ages was supported by public opinion. A government survey conducted in September 2022 revealed that 86% of South Koreans intended to use the international age in their everyday life once the new laws took effect.

However, some concerns have been raised regarding potential confusion caused by the new law. One area of concern is the calculation of the legal drinking age, which may be affected by the change. Some South Koreans also expressed uncertainty about how the new law would impact their age and whether they would need to update their documents or identification cards. Despite these concerns, officials in South Korea's Ministry of Government Legislation acknowledge that the new law is unlikely to significantly alter the way public services are provided, as most of them already follow international age standards.

Exceptions to the new law include compulsory military service, education, and the legal drinking age, which will continue to use the traditional age-counting method. South Korean males will still be eligible for military duty from January 1st of the year they turn 19. While the new law changes the way South Koreans calculate their age, there are still some areas where the traditional age system will persist.

The adoption of the international age counting system is expected to bring clarity and consistency to age calculations in South Korea. It aligns the country with international practices, reduces confusion and disputes, and simplifies interactions with the rest of the world. Although some concerns have been voiced, the new law reflects a significant step toward modernizing South Korea's age determination process.


Editor: Ms.Fahima Afrin

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