- A South Korean lawmaker introduced a bill to abolish an unusual system most locals use to calculate their ages.
- Under the system, babies are classified as one year old when they are born, and automatically turn a year older each subsequent January 1.
- That means babies born on December 31 can turn two the next day.
- Though South Koreans use the international age system in many legal matters, lawmaker Hwang Ju-hong wants to make it mandatory across all spheres.
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A South Korean lawmaker wants to abolish the country’s highly unusual age calculation system.
Under the system, babies are already one year old the day they are born, and automatically turn a year older every January 1. That means that children delivered on New Year’s Eve are two years old the next day.
This is the system most South Koreans use in their everyday life, though they use the international system for most legal matters, according to CNN.
Hwang Ju-hong, a member of the country’s National Assembly, believes Korean ages are antiquated and inefficient, CNN reported. Earlier this year, he introduced a bill that makes the international way mandatory across all spheres.
“The difference in the age calculation methods used in legal and everyday life had various adverse effects such as: wasting unnecessary administrative costs, creating confusion in information exchange due to its difference with other countries and conflict due to fostering a culture of hierarchy based on age and avoiding certain months for childbirth,” his bill said, according to CNN.
The Korean age system can also be hard for parents who have their babies late in the year.
Some worry their children will fall behind other kids born earlier in the year at school because they have the same Korean age, even though they are months apart, according to The Associated Press (AP).
A father named Ahn Chang-gun told the AP he felt “empty” when his son turned two on January 1, 2013 – about two weeks after he was born.
“He was this precious baby that we finally had, but I felt that all of a sudden two years had just gone by and yet I hadn’t done anything for my baby,” said Ahn.
For Lee Dong-kil, whose daughter was born on December 31, it was slightly jarring to have people call him to congratulate him on her second birthday so shortly after her birth.
“I thought: ‘Ah, right. She’s now two years old, though it’s been only two hours since she was born. What the heck!'” he told the AP.
It’s not clear how the exactly unusual age system came about.
Some believe it has roots in the traditional Chinese numerical system, which starts counting at one instead of zero, according to CNN. Korean culture has been heavily influenced by China for centuries.
South Korea introduced the international age system in the 1960s when Western culture started having a greater influence, the AP reported. But it did not push for the change as hard as other Asian countries did, and people continued using the local system in their everyday lives.
Some South Koreans are happy juggling the dual ageing system.
“If we use international age, things could get more complicated because it’s a society that cares so much about which year you were born,” said Lim Kyoung-jae, the head of a travel agency, told the AP.
In the east Asian nation, a person’s birth year is important to determine social standing, according to the AP. For example, it could help people decide what honorific to use.
Hwang said his bill to move away from the Korean system has widespread support from other politicians, CNN reported.
But the National Assembly is currently at an impasse over election bills, which means that Hwang may have to re-introduce his legislation again next year.
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