I'd like to ask you about how do Koreans count their age. I know that, compared to our system, they are either 1 or 2 years older but I don't understand why. The other day I asked to a tourist and he told me that on New Year's day, everyone turns a year older and that's ok. But why 2? For instance I'm 36 and will turn 37 this month. So if I was korean would I already be 37 because of new year, and therefore 38 because of my birthday this month? It can't be otherwise on December I'd turn 39, my god! Can you explain that?
I am curious about the Korean age system. I only know that Korean age is a year ahead than the real age because they will turn a year older every new year, so does this mean that they became two years older every year? Recently, I read somewhere that if you are born in December than you'll be two year old already the next year, is it true? If Koreans a one year old when they're born, at what age did they celebrate their one year birthday celebration? Example: My birthday is on 12 Jan 1991? So how old am I in Korea now?
"Korean age" creates a lot of confusion, but there really are only two simple rules involved:
1. Everyone, at the moment of birth, is one year old.
2. Everyone adds an age at New Year's Day. (Either on the solar one or lunar one, depending what people celebrate.)
To be sure, Korean people also use the regular age system that Americans and Europeans use also. Koreans usually distinguish Korean system and Western system by adding "man" ("full") in front of the age. (So for example, a Korean person would usually say that she is "46 sal" (years of age,) but "man 45 sal" (45 years old "in full".) In fact, the Western system is the official system used for all legal purposes. (For example, a minor in Korea is anyone under 19 years of age, in a "full year" basis.) Usually, Korean age is one more than the full-year age, because Koreans start life at one, not zero.
To answer Giorgio's question, Korean system and Western system are never mixed together. Then how is it possible for a Korean age to be 2 more than the full-year age? This is how: suppose a child was born on December 1, 1980. On that day, this child is 1 year old in Korean age and 0 year old in full-year age. One month later on January 1, 1981, this child is 2 years old in Korean age (assuming the child's family counts by solar calendar,) but still 0 year old in full-year age. On December 1, 1981, the child is 2 years old in Korean age, and 1 year old in full-year age. On January 1, 1982, the child turns 3 years old in Korean age, while remaining 1 year old in full-year age. So for the rest of her life, her Korean age will be 2 more than her full-year age, except for the brief period her birthday and the New Year's Day. (You can see how this particularly affects people with birthdays later in the year.)
To answer Fatin's question, as of November 5, 2010, Fatin is 20 years old in Korean age, although 19 years old in full-year basis. Fatin will be 21 years old in Korean age on January 1, 2011 while still being 19 years old in full-year age. Eleven days later on January 12, 2011, Fatin will close the gap by turning 20 years old in full-year age.
In Korea, Korean age system is not really used among infants, i.e. babies who are younger than two or three years old. Korean parents would simply give the number of months ("7 months old",) like an American parent would. To answer the other Fatin's question, the first birthday celebration ("dol") happens on the first birthday of the baby.
Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at firstname.lastname@example.org.