Until Tuesday, things went like this: A South Korean was one year old at birth. A year is added not on the day of birth, but on January 1. Anyone born in December would have turned two years old within a month.
Since the 1960s, legal and medical documents have already referred to the international era, but in everyday life, for example in the workplace, the traditional method of counting was still used.
It’s over for the majority of the population, according to several polls last year: the old order just doesn’t exist at this time. For example, a September government poll showed that 86 percent favored switching to the international era. In December, the House of Representatives approved an amendment to the law regulating this. President Yoon Seok Yul fulfilled his campaign promise.
“I was supposed to be 30 next year, but now I have more time,” a 27-year-old Seoul resident told Reuters news agency. In addition, the change will prevent a lot of confusion and disagreement, the government believes.
For example, there has been a court case for years about the so-called peak wage system: in South Korea, it is customary for older employees to have wages cut step by step towards retirement. The question was which age to use for this: lower international or higher traditional. These kinds of controversies should be a thing of the past now that there’s so much ambiguity about the times.
Birthdays are still not taken into account to determine whether someone can go to primary school, or is conscripted and allowed to buy tobacco or alcohol. This still depends on the year of birth: for example, children go to school for the first time on March 1 of the year they turn 6. And those born in 2004 must do military service this year. According to the government, this way of working is simpler from an administrative point of view.
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