Counting Age in Korea

The western world has been taking to South Korea in a big way in recent years. With more and more establishments like our Seattle Korean restaurant springing up across the country, Korean food and culture are becoming much more familiar to the average American. However, South Korea still has many surprises to it that may strike you as strange. Indeed one of Korea’s more foreign oddities is the Korean custom for counting age.

It’s easy to think of age as being a universal thing. After all, it’s a simple matter of counting the years since you were born. However, though this is the method employed by most of the world, many non-Koreans discover that they are between one and two years older on the Korean peninsula. This is because Koreans don’t count the number of years you have been alive, but rather the number of calendar years you have lived in.

The system is simple: when a baby is born, he or she is already one. Then, once the new year comes around, he or she turns two. It is therefore possible, for example, for a baby born on the last day of the year to be considered two years old on his or her second day of life!