Social Issues

Change in age counting system causes confusion in South Korea

Seoul, Jun 30 (EFE).- South Korea’s move to switch from traditional age counting systems to the international method this week has caused confusion in South Korean society, particularly in kindergartens and blind dating services.

On Jun. 28, South Korean public administration officially began to use only the international method instead of the traditional one and a third alternative system, which was used for certain administrative purposes.

Under the abolished traditional Korean system, everyone was considered one year old at birth, taking into account the months spent in the womb, and a year was added to everyone’s age on Jan. 1 instead of the day they were born.

Hence, a baby born on Dec. 31 would be considered two years old on Jan. 1, despite having lived only for one day.

The third alternative system, used in military and educational documents, considered a person zero at birth and added a year on Jan. 1.

The system change that has made every citizen a year or two younger has created some social confusion in South Korea, where the traditional age counting system is now a “part of the psychology of the nation,” according to a recent editorial on the local Korea Times newspaper.

Therefore, the traditional age counting method “may continue to persist” in the country of “a solid Confucian tradition,” it underlined.

“The truth is that at the administrative level, I have just suddenly returned to my thirties, something I cannot complain about,” Park Hyeon-mi, a 39-year-old office worker, told EFE.

Park believes that putting an end to the traditional and alternative counting systems in documents would not change anything practically because citizens have adapted to the old system very well.

Kindergarten and primary school pupils specifically faced the age-related confusions this week because of the change, the local Yonhap news agency reported, quoting an elementary school teacher.

In the primary schools, the pupils’ age was counted using the traditional system, with which all the students were considered of the same age, something that helped to harmonize the classrooms until Wednesday, when some students suddenly got a year or two younger than their classmates did.

“Low-grade students are generally proud of getting one year older. Some of them cried, complaining that they became two years younger from today,” the teacher said.

According to reports, matchmaking service companies and travel agencies that charge different rates by age group have decided not to embrace the international age counting system for the time being to minimize confusion.

“Age is important in dating. There may be confusion if the age counting method is suddenly changed. For the time being, we’ll stick to the traditional age counting method,” an employee at matchmaking firm Duo told Yonhap.

“Age is the most important thing when going on a blind date. When a man and a woman meet and tell each other their age, they may have to make clear whether their age is Korean or international age,” said a Seoul office worker, surnamed Lee, 28, quoted by Yonhap. EFE


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