South Korea mulls closing arcane age system to complement remainder of globe

A baby is one on the day it is born, and turns two on New Year’s Day, even if it is the very next day in South Korea

When expected their age by a foreigner, numerous Southern Koreans give both their ‘Korean’ and ‘international’ ages. Photograph: Choi Won-Suk/AFP/Getty Images

Final modified on Sun 2 Jun 2019 16.50 BST

A South Korean MP is wanting to overturn a tradition that is centuries-old which every newborn turns one regarding the time they’ve been created and two regarding the next New Year’s Day.

The uncommon custom means an infant created on New Year’s Eve becomes couple of years old as soon as the clock hits midnight.

When asked their age by way of a foreigner, numerous Southern Koreans give both their “Korean age” and “international age”, accompanied by a reason that invariably will leave the questioner confused.

The system’s origins are confusing. One concept is the fact that switching a year old at delivery takes into account time invested when you look at the womb – with nine months rounded as much as 12. other people link it to an old Asian numerical system that didn’t have the idea of zero.

Explanations for the extra 12 months added on 1 January are more complicated.

Some specialists point out the idea that ancient Koreans put their 12 months of delivery inside the Chinese calendar that is 60-year, but, at any given time whenever there have been no regular calendars, had a tendency to disregard the time of these delivery and merely added on a complete 12 months in the very first time for the lunar calendar. The additional 12 months on 1 January became prevalent as more South Koreans began studying the western calendar.

Now, however, an MP is trying to end the tradition, claiming that numerous of their compatriots worry it generates Southern Korea, Asia’s economy that is fourth-biggest a worldwide technology giant, appear away from action along with the rest around the globe.

“The biggest issue is that the legal age plus the age found in everyday lives are very different,” says Hwang Ju-hong, whom recently introduced a bill that could need the us government to make use of worldwide many years in formal papers and also to encourage visitors to utilize them in every day life.

“The worldwide age can be used in courts, hospitals and general public workplaces, as the Korean age is employed in people’s day-to-day everyday lives. The various calculation method causes plenty of confusion and inconvenience.”

Hwang, whom claims to own extensive support among MPs together with public, said parents with infants created in December stress that their offspring will encounter issues when they mix with young ones that are physically older and bigger but, in Korean terms, will be the exact same age.

“They concern yourself with the possibility that their children might be at a drawback at daycare centers due to their relatively size that is small” he says, noting that Asia abolished its old-fashioned age system throughout the Cultural Revolution, while Japan adopted worldwide many years during the early 1900s. North Korea began making use of worldwide many years in 1985.

The South age that is korean may be especially disconcerting for the moms and dads of young ones created later within the year. Kim Sun-mi, whoever child came to be on 30 December year that is last stated she preferred to provide her child’s age in months while she ended up being nevertheless extremely young.

“I think I’ll begin to use her age that is korean when develops a bit,” Kim stated. But she thinks it really is “absurd” that her child celebrated her 2nd birthday celebration only 2 days after she was created. “The Korean age system poses numerous drawbacks for infants which are created later on when you look at the year,” she said.

“I even saw some posts that are online just exactly how some individuals prepare their pregnancies so their babies won’t be born later on when you look at the 12 months. Many people even ‘cheat’ by waiting to join up their infants’ birth in January. I am hoping the bill shall pass.”

Not absolutely all South Koreans agree totally that the calculation that is traditional anachronistic, arguing so it reflects the significance eastern Asian communities put on the lunar calendar, in the place of the solar calendar seen in the western.

“Unifying the age calculation therefore it falls based on the age that is international means breaking with conventional a few ideas of the time on the basis of the lunar calendar,” said Jang Yoo-seung, a senior researcher at Dankook University’s Oriental Studies analysis Centre.

“Some individuals say it’s the same for international ages that it’s weird for babies born in December to turn two after just a few days, but. An infant created today, and another who was simply born this past year and arrives to commemorate his / her birthday celebration the next day, have actually delivery times which are nearly one year aside, but they’re both ‘zero’ years old.

“Why can’t the age that is korean the worldwide age system coexist, just as that the standard lunar brand brand new 12 months vacation and Christmas coexist?”

Seoul resident Kim Yun-soo, whose Korean age is 32, agrees that the alteration really should not be enforced in a misguided try to imitate the western. “The Korean age system arises from recognising the full time infants invest within their mother’s womb, which will be section of Korea’s old-fashioned culture,” he said.

“I’m maybe maybe not entirely in opposition to utilizing the worldwide age system, but we wonder if it is required to impose it on individuals.”

Kyungmi Choi in Seoul and Associated Press contributed for this report

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