Korean Age: All About Age in Korea

Last Updated on August 7, 2020 by 90 Day Korean
Birthday cake on an orange background

Korean age is different than the age used in most countries. The whole concept of age is deeply embedded in Korean language and culture.

We’ll fill you in on what you need to know about age in Korea. We’ll also show you how to calculate your own Korean age. You can choose our easy formula, or our Korean age calculator.

Let’s get to it!

Birthday cake on an orange background

Korean Age Calculator

Enter your birth year below, and the Korean age calculator will show you your Korean age.

Enter Your Birth Year:
Your Korean age is years old.

The Korean age calculator above will use the Korean age formula and automatically calculate your Korean age. If you want to understand Korean age better, or how Korean age is calculated, we’ll explain below.

What is Korean Age?

Korean age is a way that Koreans calculate their age. It is always one or two years more than your international age. Koreans consider a year in the womb as counting towards their age, so everyone is one year old at birth. Everyone gets one year added to their Korean age on New Year’s Day.

Here’s an easy way to think about it. Your Korean age will always be at least one year older than your international age. That’s because Korean age adds one year because of the time you spent in the womb before being born (approximately one year).

Korean Age

Your Korean age will change on New Year’s Day, not on your birthday. People in Korea still celebrate their birthday’s on the day that they were born. However, it doesn’t affect their Korean age. Their Korean age changes on January 1st.

For example, if you were born on April 1st, then you would still celebrate your birthday on April 1st. However, your Korean age wouldn’t change until January 1st. Korean age isn’t calculated based on your birthday.

If you’re curious about your Korean age, there is a Korean age calculator earlier and later in this post. We also recommend you try the formulas we provide before using the Korean age calculator. More on that in a bit.

Why is Korean Age Important?

Age in Korea is very important in Korean culture. Far more important than it is in Europe or the USA.

Often the first question that people ask is “How old are you?” People’s age is important not just for things like whether you are old enough to buy cigarettes and alcohol, but for a whole variety of social interactions in Korea.

People use different language when speaking to people of a different age. They expect people to act differently, with younger people expected to pour drinks, or older people expected to pay for things.

Even the way you refer to your friends is based on their age; if they are a year older than you, they might be your 누나 (nuna) or  언니 (eonni), if they are younger, they will be your 동생 (dongsaeng).

Can't read Korean yet? Click here to learn for free in about 60 minutes!

With all this importance put on age, answering the question “How old are you?” is very important. But the answer depends on the meaning of the question.

Why is Korean Age Different?

Korean age is different than international age (or Western age) because of two reasons. First, you are automatically one year old at birth. Second, you age another year because of the turn of the calendar year. Your date of birth doesn’t affect your Korean age.

To contrast, if you are a baby born in the USA, then on the day after you are born, you are considered to be one day old. The nine months that you spent inside your mommy’s tummy are not considered part of your age. Your age increases by one each time your date of birth passes.

In Korea, on the day of your birth, you are considered to be one year old; the time you spent in the womb counts as the first year of your life (despite it only being nine months). Because of this, your Korean age is always at least one year higher than your international age. Then the change of the year on January 1st automatically advances your Korean age by one. You can read more about Korean months here.

What’s my Korean age?

If you’re curious to know “what’s my Korean age”, there are three simple ways to get the answer. Pick whichever one you like the best. We recommend using the Korean age calculator last.

1. Use the “Korean Age +1 Formula”

(Current year – Year of Birth) + 1 = Korean Age

If you were born in 1995, and the year is 2019:

(2019 – 1995) + 1 = 25 years old (Korean age)

2. Use the “Korean Age Birthday Formula”

Birthday has passed this year: Your Age + 1 = Korean Age

Birthday has not passed this year: Your Age + 2 = Korean Age

If you are 25 and your birthday has passed:

25 + 1 = 26 years old (Korean age)

If you are 25 and your birthday has not passed this year:

25 + 2 = 27 years old (Korean age)

This means that your Korean age will be one or two years more than your international age.

3. Use the Korean Age Calculator

Using the Korean Age Calculator is super easy, just input your birth year. We recommend using the formulas above first, and then check your answer by using the Korean age calculator after.

Enter Your Birth Year:
Your Korean age is years old.

If you want to get a solid understanding of Korean age, then you could try to calculate the Korean age of various people using the formulas, like celebrities or people you know. Then you can use the Korean age calculator to check if you’re correct.

Keep in mind that the Korean age calculator uses today’s date. If you want to calculate a Korean age on a different date, then use formulas 1 and 2.

Now that you know you how to calculate your Korean age, let’s look at some examples.

Can't read Korean yet? Click here to learn for free in about 60 minutes!

Korean Age Example

Let’s take a look at a Korean age example if your birthday is September 21st, 1997.

  • International age:
    • On January 1st, 2020, your international age is 22.
    • On September 21st, 2020, your international age is 23.
    • On January 1st, 2021, your international age is 23.
  • Korean age:
    • On January 1st, 2020, your Korean age is 24
    • On September 21st, 2020, your Korean age is 24
    • On January 1st, 2021, your Korean age is 25

How to Say Your Age in Korean

Knowing how to say your Korean age is really useful to know when learning how to speak Korean. It’s for sure to come up in conversation. You can say your Korean age by using this sentence. The Korean age calculator and formulas above will help you get the correct Korean age to use.

Example:

저는 스무 살입니다 (jeoneun seumu sarimnida).

This means I am 20 years old. You can substitute your age by using the chart below. If you don’t know how Korean numbers work, then check out this resource.

KoreanRomanizationEnglish
han sal1 year old
du sal2 years old
se sal3 years old
ne sal4 years old
daseot sal5 years old
yeoseot sal6 years old
ilgop sal7 years old
yeodeol sal8 years old
ahop sal9 years old
yeol sal10 years old
yeolhan sal11 years old
yeoldu sal12 years old
yeolse sal13 years old
yeolle sal14 years old
yeoldaseot sal15 years old
yeollyeoseot sal16 years old
yeorilgop sal17 years old
yeollyeodeol sal18 years old
yeorahop sal19 years old
seumu sal20 years old
seumulhan sal21 years old
seumuldu sal22 years old
seumulse sal23 years old
seumulle sal24 years old
seumuldaseot sal25 years old
seumullyeoseot sal26 years old
seumurilgop sal27 years old
seumullyeodeol sal28 years old
seumurahop sal29 years old
seoreun sal30 years old
seoreunhan sal31 years old
seoreundu sal32 years old
seoreunse sal33 years old
seoreunne sal34 years old
seoreundaseot sal35 years old
seoreunyeoseot sal36 years old
seoreunilgop sal37 years old
seoreunyeodeol sal38 years old
seoreunahop sal39 years old
maheun sal40 years old
maheunhan sal41 years old
maheundu sal42 years old
maheunse sal43 years old
maheunne sal44 years old
maheundaseot sal45 years old
maheunyeoseot sal46 years old
maheunilgop sal47 years old
maheunyeodeol sal48 years old
maheunahop sal49 years old
swin sal50 years old
swinhan sal51 years old
swindu sal52 years old
swinse sal53 years old
swinne sal54 years old
swindaseot sal55 years old
swinyeoseot sal56 years old
swinilgop sal57 years old
swinyeodeol sal58 years old
swinahop sal59 years old
yesun sal60 years old
yesunhan sal61 years old
yesundu sal62 years old
yesunse sal63 years old
yesunne sal64 years old
yesundaseot sal65 years old
yesunyeoseot sal66 years old
yesunilgop sal67 years old
yesunyeodeol sal68 years old
yesunahop sal69 years old
ilheun sal70 years old
ilheunhan sal71 years old
ilheundu sal72 years old
ilheunse sal73 years old
ilheunne sal74 years old
ilheundaseot sal75 years old
ilheunyeoseot sal76 years old
ilheunilgop sal77 years old
ilheunyeodeol sal78 years old
ilheunahop sal79 years old
yeodeun sal80 years old
yeodeunhan sal81 years old
yeodeundu sal82 years old
yeodeunse sal83 years old
yeodeunne sal84 years old
yeodeundaseot sal85 years old
yeodeunyeoseot sal86 years old
yeodeunilgop sal87 years old
yeodeunyeodeol sal88 years old
yeodeunahop sal89 years old
aheun sal90 years old
aheunhan sal91 years old
aheundu sal92 years old
aheunse sal93 years old
aheunne sal94 years old
aheundaseot sal95 years old
aheunyeoseot sal96 years old
aheunilgop sal97 years old
aheunyeodeol sal98 years old
aheunahop sal99 years old
baek sal100 years old
baekan sal101 years old
baekdu sal102 years old
baekse sal103 years old
baengne sal104 years old
baekdaseot sal105 years old
baengnyeoseot sal106 years old
baegilgop sal107 years old
baengnyeodeol sal108 years old
baegahop sal109 years old
baengnyeol sal110 years old
baengnyeolhan sal111 years old

How to Ask Someone’s Korean Age

You can also ask someone’s Korean age by using this question:

나이가 어떻게 되세요? (naiga eotteoke doeseyo?)

How old are you?

You may hear people ask you for your birthdate. That means you’ll tell them your birth year, birth month, and birthdate (in that order). For example:

생년월일이 어떻게 됩니까? (saengnyeonworiri eotteoke doemnikka?)

What’s your date of birth?

If you were born on Jan 15, 1995, you can say:

1995년 1월 15일 (천구백구십오 년 일 월 십오 일 | cheongubaekgusibo nyeon il wol sibo il)

This is a very common question if you go somewhere where you’ll need to be registered, such as at the dentist or doctor’s office. They use the year you were born plus your birth month and day to look you up in their systems.

Korean Age Words

Obviously, there is a large chance of confusion when non-Koreans talk about age with Koreans. The way that most Koreans avoid confusion is to use the terms “Korean age” and “international age” when talking about age.

한국 나이 (Hanguk nai) – Korean Age

만 나이 (man nai) – international age

Example sentence:

저는 올해 스무 살이지만 만으로는 열아홉 살이에요.

(jeoneun olhae seumu sarijiman maneuroneun yeorahop sarieyo.)

I’m twenty in Korean age but nineteen in Western age.

These are some common Korean words that you’ll hear. You may notice them if you live in Korea and know how to read Hangeul.

Other Korean Age Terms

You may also hear these terms when people are talking about international age. They all mean the same as “만 나이 (man nai).”

국제 나이 (gukje nai) – international age

미국 나이 (miguk nai) – American age

외국 나이 (oeguk nai) – foreign age

When is the international age used in Korea?

As a general rule, the Korean age is used for social interactions with people, whereas international age is used for more official things. For example, the age limits written on alcohol, cigarettes, movie posters, and so on are based on international age. The legal age for most things in Korea is 19. This means an international age of 19.

When Do Koreans Celebrate their Birthdays?

Everybody in Korea shares the same birthday: January 1st. However, that’s not when they celebrate their actual birthday.

Birthday cake with lit candles on a table

Everybody has their own birthday, complete with cake and candles. Koreans celebrate their birthday on the day they were born. But on your birthday in Korea, you are not considered to be one year older than the day before.

When do Koreans celebrate their birthdays?

Instead, Koreans all age on the same day. January 1st. No matter when your birthday is, if you were 40 years old on December 31st, then on January 1st, you will be 41. Korean age works as if everybody was born on January 1st.

Wow, we are the same age!

As age determines a complete host of social interactions in Korea, being of the same age as somebody can make everybody feel more comfortable. If somebody that you have just met finds out that you are the same age as them, they will often be excited. This is because if you and your friend are the same age in Korea, neither person will have any of the social obligations that come from being a different age from each other.

Being the same age as another person has a special word in Korean: 동갑 (donggap). You will often hear the expression 우리는 동갑이다 (urineun donggabida) which means “we are the same age”. As the Korean age system is based on year of birth, rather than your birthday, you will always be the same age as this new friend. Even if your birthday is the very next day!

Now that you know the difference between Korean age and international age, as well as how to calculate your Korean age. But don’t be upset that you have suddenly become two years older. After all, age is just a number!

If you liked this article and want to learn Korean, head over here for more great resources:

  1. How-to guide for learning the language: https://www.90daykorean.com/learn-korean/
  2. Korean Phrase List: https://www.90daykorean.com/korean-phrases/
  3. Korean Grammar Guide: https://www.90daykorean.com/korean-grammar/
  4. Korean Sentence Structure: https://www.90daykorean.com/korean-sentence-structure/

    264 replies to "Korean Age: All About Age in Korea"

    • Avatar for Hihi Hihi

      A typical pregnancy is 39/40 weeks, which is 9 months. 9 months out of 12 is 75% of a year not a whole! Having it listed as a year might confuse some people.
      Thanks for teaching me about Korean age!

      • Avatar for 90 Day Korean 90 Day Korean

        Sure, it’s our pleasure. ^^

      • Avatar for William William

        Counting the age before born as 1 is called “nominal age” in English, 虚岁 in Chinese. Not counting the age in the womb is called “a full year of age”, 周岁. It is a Chinese tradition that has been used since 1800years ago. Age is age, it doesn’t has to be a integral multiplied years.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.