Kian in Korea

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Korean Age

In Korea they count their age differently than we do in the west. You have two ages- your Korean Age and your Actual Age. Your Korean age is one or two years higher than your actual age, depending on when your birthday is and when in the year it is.

For most of us, when you're born you are zero years old, and a year later you are one. In Korea, a newborn baby is one year old. And instead of turning two on his birthday the following year, he turns two the following new year's day- even if that's only a few weeks away.

Confusing, right? An easier way to look at it: when you are born, you are on your first year of life. When it's your birthday, you've survived another year. In the west we tally how many years you've survived. In Korea, they count what year you're on. That much kind of makes sense. The adding a year on new year's day is the weird kicker that doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

So, my 'actual' age is 23. But now, in Korea, I'm 24. And when new year's rolls around, I'm going to be 25! But, I'll still be 25 years old even after I actually turn 24. And then, when I get back to America, I'm going to be 24 again. Koreans are often interested in if you think their age system is a good idea. I don't really know what to tell them!


  • That's very neat. The approach is very understandable. I wonder now is - what and how do they celebrate birthdays there? Is New Years just one big party because everyone gains another year? :)

    By Anonymous Todd Koester, at 9:55 PM  

  • hey Lisa told me about this blog, and just wanted to check it out. Just to help out clarifying the whole age thing...

    In Korea, when you are born, you are 1. Once you hit New Year's(lunar New Year), you turn 1 year older. Once you hit your birthday, that's when you say, your actualy age is 13, but at the same time you are 14. Hope this helps a little.

    Birthdays are celebrated like US. Every new year is like Thanksgiving. Whole family gets together, pay your respect to your elders and your ancestors, and you have rice cake soup (떡국) which symbolizes your gaining of 1 year of age.

    By Anonymous Don, at 8:10 PM  

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