What’s YOUR Korean age?


Photo cr - http://cre8ivechris.blogspot.co.uk/

How old are you? Simple question you know the answer to, right? Well in Korea the answer you would ordinarily give here in the West would not be entirely correct!

In Korea there is a VERY different way of measuring age. Would you be surprised if I told you that you are from 1 to 2 years older than you think you are? Allow me to tell you how!

There are 2 different ways of recording age in Korea – the traditional Lunar Year system, and the Chronological system (referred to as 만나이 [man-nai]; meaning ‘full’ and 나이 meaning ‘age’. At birth, everyone is counted as one year old instead of zero, and on January 1st their age increases by one year instead of on their actual anniversary of birth. This doesn’t mean the anniversary isn’t celebrated, because they are! In fact, the very first true birthday a child has is very special, is called [dol], and normally involves a big family party and LOTS of decorations and cake!

The traditional age is counted as 살 [sal], using ordinal numbering, and everyone gains one every New Year – in their first year a person is 1 and 10 in their tenth year. You can distinguish this from chronological age by how it’s said; so for example, if someone is 18 years of age they can say they are 만 18 살 and 19 살! Still confused? Let’s show you how to calculate it!

Okay, so basically when calculating your Korean age you will come out either one or two years older than you actually are. Here’s the formula:

[Current Year – Birth Year] + 1 = Your Korean Age!

Let’s use my birth year as an example:

[2013 – 1986] + 1 = 28 (Yes, I know~ I feel old!! ㅎㅎㅎ)

It’s that simple!

For further examination – my age here in the UK is recorded as 26 currently, but in Korea I am 28! Yes, hahaha, I am an old fogey compared to many of you Wave Riders! But how can this be? Well, I was born at the END of October, and so at the time of writing this, my birthday hasn’t passed yet, so I am still 26. But if you count the number of years I have seen in my lifetime it comes to 28! So that is how my age is measured in Korea – by the number of years my life has spanned!

You will find this makes most sense when working out how to refer to other people when using honorifics, as it takes away the fiddly matter of working out someone’s EXACT age by date of birth! So if someone asks somebody their age in Korea, you will find people will often answer with the year they were born so as to make it clear how the first person should address them. The actual birthday doesn’t come into play when calculating, but it’s still fun to celebrate!

So –
What’s YOUR Korean age?  (^。^)丿

Why not tell us below? Or, if you are STILL confused, pop over to the MESSAGE BOARDS and ask us all about it!

Published by SurfinHaruru

SurfinHaruru is Sub-Editor, Head Graphic Designer/Coordinator, and Resident Photographer at JaK Wave, and manages the Korean Language section of the site. He loves Asian culture - living with Chinese culture day-to-day, and studying Korean in his spare time. He has a passion for Asian cookery, dramas, and music, and enjoys attending Traditional and Modern cultural events frequently.

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  1. Posted by Erika on December 8th, 2014, 02:46

    My birthday is on Nov. 17. [2014-1992] + 1 = 24. Right?