South Korea Making Citizens Younger Overnight Adopts International Age System

The age of South Koreans has been recalibrated with the adoption of a new law that replaces the country’s unique age-counting method. By aligning with international standards, South Korea aims to reduce administrative complexities and establish a more rational approach to age calculation.

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South Korea has made a significant change to its age-counting system, making its citizens instantly younger by a year or two. The country had previously followed a unique method where everyone was considered one year old at birth and gained an additional year on January 1st of each year. This resulted in confusion and disputes, leading the government to adopt the international age-counting system. The new law, which went into effect recently, aligns administrative and civil laws with the international standard and encourages individuals to calculate their ages accordingly.

The decision to change the age-counting method was driven by President Yoon Suk Yeol‘s campaign promise and the desire to reduce the socioeconomic costs associated with age-related disputes. South Korea is not alone in abandoning traditional age systems, as other Asian countries like Japan and Vietnam have also transitioned to the international age system due to the influence of Western culture.

It is important to note that the new law primarily affects administrative and civil laws, while most public services in South Korea already follow the international age system. Therefore, citizens will not be required to update their documents or identification cards. However, certain age-related regulations, such as the legal age for purchasing alcohol and cigarettes, will remain unchanged. The Youth Protection Act will continue to define minors as individuals below 19 years of age, meaning only those born in 2004 or earlier can buy such products.

The adoption of the international age-counting system in South Korea has been met with mixed reactions. Some individuals, like Choi Eun-young and Oh Seung-youl, welcome the change as it aligns the country with global standards. They appreciate the psychological benefit of being called a year younger. However, there are also those, like Kim Si-eun, who find the new system awkward and prefer the simplicity of the traditional method.

While the law aims to reduce confusion and promote a more rational way of counting ages, it does not affect other age-related regulations that are based on yearly rules. As a result, the legal age for various activities, such as drinking, smoking, and military service, remains unchanged. Amendments to the relevant laws would be required to alter these age regulations.

The shift to the international age-counting system is expected to have practical benefits, such as reducing administrative chaos and minimizing disputes. For instance, it will help clarify age-related instructions on products like cough syrup and prevent misunderstandings regarding transportation fares for children.

Despite potential advantages, the change in age-counting systems also raises societal considerations. Age has significant implications in South Korea’s hierarchical society, and being younger can sometimes be seen as a disadvantage. Nevertheless, many South Koreans view the shift positively and see it as a long-overdue change that brings the entire nation together to feel younger.

The experience of South Korea serves as a reminder of the significance of age in our lives. In a world where youth is highly valued, individuals may feel pressure as they age. The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns have further exacerbated these feelings, hindering personal development and social interactions. The desire for a reset and the opportunity to feel younger resonate with many, highlighting the importance of embracing age as just a number.

Ultimately, while the change in South Korea’s age-counting system may not have a profound impact on public services already following international ages, it represents a step towards standardization and aims to reduce confusion in daily life. It is a reminder that age is a societal construct and that our perception of it can evolve over time.

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