You may have heard that Koreans are always a year or two older. You may have met Koreans who had to do the math when asked their age.
In this article, I will explain to you why Korean age is calculated differently and how you can find out your Korean age.
Why is the Korean age calculated differently?
A baby is nine months in the womb. Since our ancestors also valued this time as important life, they also included these nine months.
Moreover, on New Year’s Day, when we eat Tteokguk 떡국, every Korean becomes one year older. (떡국을 먹으면 한 살 더 먹는다.)
We used to count by the lunar calendar, but we no longer celebrate our birthdays by the lunar calendar, so today we turn one year older on the first of January. This makes the system less complicated as the date does not change every year.
So we don’t count the years by our actual birthday.
How to calculate the Korean age?
For example, if a baby is born on 12/31/2019, he/she is already 1 year old at birth and on the next day he/she turns another year older because of the change of the year, so the baby is already 2 years old on the first of January 2020, although in reality he/she is only 2 days old.
Hyunok was born on 05.09.1980. Today is 01/25/2020, so she is 39 years old.
How old is she in Korea? How does she calculate her Korean age?
Before her birthday, she is 2 years older than her current age and after her birthday, she is 1 year older, so she is already 41 years old in Korea. 🙁
How old would I be in Korea?
Before my birthday – 2 years older
After my birthday – 1 year older
We’re celebrating our birthday. The old generations like my parents celebrate their birthday in the lunar calendar, but all the young generations celebrate in the solar calendar like you do in Europe. However, we celebrate with the Korean age, so it will be one year older than the actual age.
Important phrases and vocabulary:
한국 나이 Korean age – 저는 한국 나이로 21살이에요. I’m 21 in Korean.
만 나이 international age – 저는 만 나이로 19살이에요. 저는 만으로 19살이에요. I’m 19 at international age.
How old are you?
나이가 몇 살이에요? normally polite, but younger people usually do not ask older people. It wouldn’t be polite.
나이가 어떻게 되세요? more polite than ,,나이가 몇 살이에요?”‘, so we use that with people older than you.
연세가 어떻게 되세요? very polite – If you ask a person in their forties or fifties like that, they feel bad about being a grandfather or grandmother.
나이를 먹다 Getting older
만나이 International Age
연세 age, courtesy word
양력 달력 (양력) Solar Calendar
음력 달력 (음력) Lunar calendar
양력 생일 Birthday in the solar calendar
음력 생일 Birthday in the lunar calendar