CCA Pulse Magazine
A Year or Two Younger | Rosanne Pak
South Koreans will become a year or two younger thanks to a new law that was passed last Thursday which will change how age is calculated in the country. South Korean president, Yoon Suk Yeol, and his lawmakers voted to pass the new law in order to clear up the confusion surrounding the country’s age system. Throughout the centuries, South Korea has developed three different ages: a Korean age, an international age, and a calendar age.
The Korean Age: The Korean age system considers babies a year old when they are born, so to calculate your Korean age, simply add one to your current age.
The International Age: Like most parts of the world, the international age system is the number of years since you were born, starting at zero.
The Calendar Age: The calendar age system considers babies as zero years old when they are born and adds one year every New Year’s Day. This is the traditional method of calculating one’s age in East Asia.
Another major tradition in Korea is baek-il, which literally translates to “100 days,” also known as the 100th Day Celebration. This special day celebrates the 100th day after a baby was born, also wielding a long history behind it. Korea has had high numbers of infant mortality rates since before the 1900s, since good healthcare and hygiene was rare at the time. Korea’s infant mortality rate was at its peak during the 1950s, where statistics show that approximately 222 out of 1,000 newborn babies would not live past their first birthday. This meant that 22% of all newborns died before they turned one year old during the 50s. To celebrate a baby’s baek-il, large family gatherings would take place and include a variety of traditional food such as tteok (Korean rice cakes), steamed rice, an assortment of fruits, seaweed soup, japchae (stir-fried glass noodles), and galbi (grilled ribs). For dessert, sujeonggwa (cinnamon ginger punch), sikhye (sweet rice drink), and more layered rice cakes would be shared among family.
There are many more traditions that Koreans celebrate welcoming a newborn baby into the family, but because of the new 2022 law that will take effect starting June of next year, some of these traditions may also be affected. Despite this, however, many Koreans are hopeful for the new law as shown in a recent survey showing support from 80% of participants for the change. Whether Koreans are supportive or skeptical of the new age system, I’m glad that this law will clear up the confusion that surrounds Korea’s three age systems.