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Kicker: Birthday reset

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WORLD Radio - Kicker: Birthday reset

South Koreans go back 1-2 years in age after law switching to the international age system goes into effect


South Korean flag in Seoul. tupungato via iStock

PAUL BUTLER, HOST: Well Myrna, I know that your birthday was a couple weeks ago, and I think we’re both getting to the age where we might be tempted to turn back the clock a little if we could.

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Yeah.

BUTLER: Well in South Korea, everybody is doing just that. Thanks to a new law, they’re all getting 1 to 2 years younger.

BROWN: What?!

BUTLER: No joke. In much of South Korea, babies are traditionally considered to be age 1 at birth, most people believe the custom may have started to acknowledge the time in the womb. So far so good, but this is where it gets a bit more confusing. Every January 1st, many Koreans mark the New Year by adding a year to their age, regardless of when their birthdate is.

BROWN: I don’t follow.

BUTLER: See if this helps. Someone born in South Korea on June 29th last year, would be 1 year old on that day. Then on January 1st, 2023, they were now 2 years old—even though they’re not even one yet according to the calendar. So from January 1st, 2023 till June 28th, 2023 their reported age would be two years off from their actual age. Once Koreans pass their actual birthdate, they’re back to being just one year different from their chronological, post-delivery age. And as you can imagine, the custom led to some challenging calculations when it came to drivers licenses, and age limited products and services.

BROWN: That makes my head hurt.

BUTLER: You’re not alone, so lawmakers in December passed laws adopting the international system, and the new accounting went into effect yesterday. That means today the average age in Korea is about two years lower than it was earlier this week.

BROWN: That’s one way to feel younger I guess.

BUTLER: It’s The World and Everything in It.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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