Turn back time | 

Koreans set to become a year younger as traditional rule about age to change

In the current system, a person turns one the day they are born and becomes a year older on New Year’s Day

Yoon Suk-yeol. Photo: Reuters

Julian RyallTelegraph Media Group Limited

The desire to turn back the clock is a well-known feeling but for South Korea’s incoming president one of his first tasks is to make the nation younger.

The administration of Yoon Suk-yeol, who is to be inaugurated this week after last month’s election, has confirmed it intends to abolish the traditional concept of “Korean age”.

In this system, a person turns one the day they are born and becomes a year older on New Year’s Day, irrespective of their date of birth.

This way to determine age was used in several east Asian nations in the past and is believed to stem from the concept that time inside the mother’s womb counts as the first year of a child’s life.

Most countries have aligned with the international system but South Korea uses both methods interchangeably.

The latest move comes after problems linked to Covid. Some people could not get a booster vaccine because their international age made them ineligible but had to show evidence of inoculation according to their “Korean age”.

Standardising ages will probably require South Koreans to update documentation including passports, driving licences and medical records.

A survey has found 82pc of Koreans use the traditional system when asked how old they are but 71pc said it is time to switch.

Lee Yong-ho, a politician overseeing legal and public services, said the move to solely using the international system will end “the confusion and inconvenience arising from the age difference”.

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