There seems to be a ton of confusion over how the Korean age of many idols is older than their “Western age.” I’ll try to explain why that is and how to calculate your Korean age to the best of my ability.
How do I know this information? It’s not strange for my school to have students from different countries spend a year or less here. Two years ago, a South Korean student transferred to my school for a year, and we became friends. When she told me she was actually 18 in South Korea, I asked her to explain how that is. So while I haven’t lived in South Korea, I had a South Korean resident explain it to me.
Difference #1: Birth
In many countries, infants are born at age 0. However, in Korea, children begin at age 1. So that automatically accounts for having to add 1 year to find your Korean age.
Difference #2: Adding of a year
While “most” countries consider the actual day you were born to be when you gain a year in age, Korea is a bit different. You don’t gain a year until January 1st, and that includes everyone. So there will always be a part of the year that your Korean age is 2 years greater than your “Western age.” This also may have to do with why the legal adult age in South Korea is 19/20 (some sources say 20, some say 19) while it’s 18 in other countries like the United States, France, Brazil, Chile, Greece, Austria, England, and so on.
We’ll use an idol as an example. Let’s try Jeon Jungkook. Since he was born September 1st, 1997, as of today (December 24, 2015), Jungkook is considered 18 in “Western” years. In South Korea, he’s 19 because he was born at age 1. And while he did celebrate his birthday this previous September 1st, he didn’t gain a year in age. He will on January 1st, along with every other South Korean citizen. This is why he won’t consider himself 20 until January 1st, 2016.
Because of his birthday, from January 1st to August 31st, Jungkook would need to add 2 years to his “Western age” to determine his Korean age. On the other hand, from September 1st, his birthday, to December 31st, he’ll have to add only 1 year.
In short, Koreans celebrate their birthday on their actual birthday, they just don’t add a year to their age until the 1st of January.
“We have been friends for a year. We are both very interested in fashion. Even though we work together and live together we have never fought even once. Surprisingly enough, we even found that we both got our first tattoos in 9th grade.”
“친구가 된지 1년 됐어요. 서로 패션에 관심이 많아 일도 같이 하고, 같은 집에 사는 데 한 번도 싸운 적도 없어요. 심지어 알고 보니 둘 다 중3 때 문신을 처음 했더라구요.”
“If you can give any advice to other expats, what would you say?” “Never be afraid of speaking Korean, even if you’re poor at it. Koreans will embrace you! Actually, I’m waiting here to meet my Korean friend whose English is really poor. But at least I figured out what time we’re going to meet up here!”
“서울의 재외거주자들에게 조언한다면 어떤 걸 말하고 싶나요?” “서툴더라도 절대 한국어로 말하는 걸 두려워하지 마세요. 한국인들이 포용해 줄 겁니다! 사실 전 영어를 정말 못 하는 한국인 친구를 여기서 만나기로 했는데, 적어도 몇 시에 만나야 하는 지 알아내긴 했어요!”
Dongwook Lee is a South Korean photographer living in Seoul. His body of work which could be described as ethereal, expressive and reflective, invites the observer to contemplate the nature of human existence, curiosity, physicality and morality. Lee who approaches his photography with the idea that “to see” means using all of one’s senses and memories, means that his photos may very well have different meanings for every viewer, dependent upon past experiences, the subconscious and the limits of perception.
One such collection by Dongwook Lee titled “Sense of Guilt” (also known as “Fake Tale”) presents a real world, albeit inhabited by Barbie dolls. Although the settings are familiar and commonplace, the reality is distorted precisely because the dolls are both so human-like and inanimate. Through the carefully executed scenes that he creates, they are almost like fleeting moments where the onlooker acts as a voyeur and spectator. (by Gerard McGuickin)