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Seoul, June 29 The international age counting system has been officially implemented in South Korea, replacing the nation’s traditional methods of counting age and making all Koreans one or two years younger.
Implemented on Wednesday, the international system counts a person’s age from zero at birth, whereas the abolished traditional systems added one or two years to a person’s age, depending on the birth date.
There was not much confusion in government offices, as the international age has long been used in all administrative, civil and judicial affairs, such as the legal age to drink, smoke, go to school and join the military, Yonhap news agency reported.
Nevertheless, it is expected to take time for the new age counting method to become customary in Korean society due to confusion in many “age-sensitive” fields of social life and personal relations.
Indeed, many matchmaking service companies and travel agencies that charge different rates by age group have decided not to embrace the international age counting system for the time being to minimize confusion.
“Age is important in dating. There may be confusion if the age counting method is suddenly changed. For the time being, we’ll stick to the traditional age counting method,” an official at marriage information company Duo said.
A Seoul office worker, surnamed Lee, 28, said he expects some age-related confusion in blind dates. “Age is the most important thing when going on a blind date. When a man and a woman meet and tell each other their age, they may have to make clear whether their age is Korean or international age,” Lee said.
A travel agency, which operates a tour program that charges customers aged 6 and older, still advertises in its reservation site that the program is based on the Korean age counting standard.
“It will be difficult to check a child’s age by the number of months. We’ll continue to use the Korean age as the standard for the rest of this year. The rule will be changed when the international age counting is fully established and everyone’s perception is changed,” an employee of the travel agency said.
A resident of Seoul’s Seongdong district said all members of his hobby club have agreed to continue to use the Korean age in introducing themselves to each other in the group chatting room to avoid confusion.
Another Seoul office worker, surnamed Chung, 25, is also a champion of the Korean age system. “I’m relatively young at work, so I’m worried that if I disclose my age, there will be some prejudice about my work performance. If I ever have to talk about my age, I’ll reveal my Korean age,” Chung said.
Kindergarten and elementary school pupils also faced the age-related confusion, as their ages became different in the same classrooms according to their birth dates. “Low-grade students are generally proud of getting one year older. Some of them cried, complaining that they became two years younger from today,” an elementary school teacher said.
By contrast, the changed age counting system did not bring about much change and confusion in the public sector. “Until now, people under the international age of 18 have been required to obtain the consent of their legal representatives when applying for a passport under the Passport Act. There was no big confusion, as nothing has changed in the passport application rules,” a Seoul city government employee said.
The age at which people can buy alcohol and cigarettes or enter adult entertainment establishments also remained unchanged at 19 or older under the Juvenile Protection Act. A 54-year-old man who runs a convenience store in eastern Seoul, pointing to a notice that those born in 2004 or earlier are eligible for alcohol and tobacco, said he is not worried at all as nothing has changed.