Korean age is different than the age used in most countries. The whole concept of age is deeply embedded in the Korean language and Korean 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!
- 1 What is Korean Age?
- 2 Korean Age Calculator
- 3 Why is Korean Age Important?
- 4 Why is the Korean Age System Different?
- 5 What’s my Korean age?
- 6 How to Say Your Age in Korean
- 7 How to Ask Someone’s Korean Age
- 8 “Age” in Korean
- 9 How to Say “How Old Are You” in Korean
- 10 When is the international age used in Korea?
- 11 Legal age in Korea
- 12 Legal Drinking age in Korea
- 13 Military conscription age in Korea
- 14 When Do Koreans Celebrate their Birthdays?
- 15 Wow, we are the same age!
- 16 Wrap up
What is Korean Age?
Korean age is a way that South Koreans calculate their age. It is always one or two years more than your international age. South 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. South Korea is also the only country that practices this.
How does the Korean age system work?
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 the Korean age adds one year because of the time you spent in the womb before being born (approximately one year).
Your Korean age will change on New Year’s Day, not on your birthday. People in Korea still celebrate their birthdays on the day they were born and count their actual age. However, it doesn’t affect their Korean age as it changes on January 1st.
For example, if you were born on April 1st, you would still celebrate your birthday on April 1st. The international age will change for you, and not the Korean age, since the Korean age wouldn’t change until January 1st. Korean age isn’t calculated based on your birthday.
Important note on the Korean age system
By June 2023, the government decided that the Korean age system would no longer be permitted to be used on official and legal documents in South Korea. This is to reduce confusion in age counting by adopting the same system used in the rest of the world, which means only the international system will remain. This also means that Koreans will be a year or two younger as opposed to their age which follows the traditional Korean age system.
According to Yoo Sang-bum of the ruling People Power Party, this revision aims to reduce unnecessary socio-economic costs because having different ways of calculating age can be confusing and also leads to legal and social disputes.
South Korea’s Minister of government legislation, Lee Wan Kyu, oversees the official change and expects a great reduction of legal disputes, complaints, and social confusion caused by how to calculate a person’s age.
Korean Age Calculator
If you’re curious about your Korean age, there is a Korean age calculator below that you can use. We also recommend you try the formulas we provide before using the Korean age calculator—more on that in a bit.
Enter your birth year below, and the Korean age calculator will show you your age in Korea.
The Korean age calculator above will use the Korean age formula and automatically calculate your Korean age.
Why is Korean Age Important?
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 languages when speaking to people of different ages. 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).
With all this importance on age, answering the question “How old are you?” is very important. But the answer depends on the meaning of the question.
Why is the Korean Age System Different?
It is different from the 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.
In contrast, if you are a baby born in the USA, then you are considered to be one day old on the day after you are born. 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 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 or Western age. Then the change of the year on January 1st automatically advances a person’s Korean age by one. You can read more about Korean months here.
What’s my Korean age?
If you’re asking yourself, “How old am I in Korean age” there are three simple ways to get the answer. One of the easiest and simplest ways of knowing your age in South Korea is to add one year to the current year and then subtract your year of birth. This method will make you one year older than your Western age.
For example, if the current year is 2021 and the year you were born is 1992, you’ll add one year to the current year (2021 + 1) and subtract your year of birth. This is (2021 + 1) – 1992 = 30.
Another method of knowing your age in Korea or using the Korean system is by adding one year to your Western age if your birthday has passed upon age calculation and adding two years if your birthday hasn’t passed yet. And lastly, use the Korean age calculator.
Pick whichever one you like the best among these. We recommend using the this calculator last. Let’s take a look at the examples of each method below.
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 Western age.
3. Use the Korean Age Calculator
Using the online 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.
If you want to get a solid understanding of age in Korea, then you could try to calculate Korean age using the formulas, like celebrities or people you know. Then you can use the online 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, use formulas 1 and 2.
Now that you know how to calculate Korean age let’s look at some examples.
Korean Age Example
Let’s take a look at a comparison between using the international age system and the Korean age system. In this example, your birthday is September 21st, 1997.
- International age:
- On January 1st, 2021, your international age is 23.
- On September 21st, 2021, your international age is 24.
- On January 1st, 2022, your international age is 24.
- Korean age:
- On January 1st, 2021, your Korean age is 25
- On September 21st, 2021, your Korean age is 25
- On January 1st, 2022, your Korean age is 26
BTS’ Jungkook Age
Let’s discover how old Jungkook is based on both his Korean and international. Jeon Jung-kook is a South Korean singer and performer and is the youngest member of the BTS members, a popular South Korean boy band in South Korea and globally.
Jeon Jung-kook was born on September 1, 1997.
How old is Jungkook?
Now that we know when Jungkook’s birthday is, here’s how to identify his international and Korean age.
- International age system:
- On September 1, 2021, his international age is 24 years old.
- On January 1, 2022, his international age is 24 years old.
- On September 1, 2022, his international age is 25.
- Korean age system:
- On September 1, 2021, Jungkook’s age is 25 years old.
- On January 1, 2022, Jungkook’s age is 26 years old.
- On September 1, 2022, Jungkook’s age is 26 years old
BTS Members Age
If you have already familiarized how to determine your Korean age, then a bit more practice won’t hurt! Here are the birthdays of the rest of the BTS members that you can use for practicing how to know someone’s Korean age.
- Kim Namjoon – September 12, 1994
- Min Yoongi – March 9, 1993
- Jung Hoseok – February 18, 1994
- Kim Taehyung – December 30, 1995
- Park Jimin – October 13, 1995
- Kim Seokjin – December 4, 1992
How to Say Your Age in Korean
Knowing how to say your Korean age in the Korean language 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 online Korean age calculator and formulas above will help you get the correct Korean age to use.
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.
|han sal||1 year old|
|du sal||2 years old|
|se sal||3 years old|
|ne sal||4 years old|
|daseot sal||5 years old|
|yeoseot sal||6 years old|
|ilgop sal||7 years old|
|yeodeol sal||8 years old|
|ahop sal||9 years old|
|yeol sal||10 years old|
|yeolhan sal||11 years old|
|yeoldu sal||12 years old|
|yeolse sal||13 years old|
|yeolle sal||14 years old|
|yeoldaseot sal||15 years old|
|yeollyeoseot sal||16 years old|
|yeorilgop sal||17 years old|
|yeollyeodeol sal||18 years old|
|yeorahop sal||19 years old|
|seumu sal||20 years old|
|seumulhan sal||21 years old|
|seumuldu sal||22 years old|
|seumulse sal||23 years old|
|seumulle sal||24 years old|
|seumuldaseot sal||25 years old|
|seumullyeoseot sal||26 years old|
|seumurilgop sal||27 years old|
|seumullyeodeol sal||28 years old|
|seumurahop sal||29 years old|
|seoreun sal||30 years old|
|seoreunhan sal||31 years old|
|seoreundu sal||32 years old|
|seoreunse sal||33 years old|
|seoreunne sal||34 years old|
|seoreundaseot sal||35 years old|
|seoreunyeoseot sal||36 years old|
|seoreunilgop sal||37 years old|
|seoreunyeodeol sal||38 years old|
|seoreunahop sal||39 years old|
|maheun sal||40 years old|
|maheunhan sal||41 years old|
|maheundu sal||42 years old|
|maheunse sal||43 years old|
|maheunne sal||44 years old|
|maheundaseot sal||45 years old|
|maheunyeoseot sal||46 years old|
|maheunilgop sal||47 years old|
|maheunyeodeol sal||48 years old|
|maheunahop sal||49 years old|
|swin sal||50 years old|
|swinhan sal||51 years old|
|swindu sal||52 years old|
|swinse sal||53 years old|
|swinne sal||54 years old|
|swindaseot sal||55 years old|
|swinyeoseot sal||56 years old|
|swinilgop sal||57 years old|
|swinyeodeol sal||58 years old|
|swinahop sal||59 years old|
|yesun sal||60 years old|
|yesunhan sal||61 years old|
|yesundu sal||62 years old|
|yesunse sal||63 years old|
|yesunne sal||64 years old|
|yesundaseot sal||65 years old|
|yesunyeoseot sal||66 years old|
|yesunilgop sal||67 years old|
|yesunyeodeol sal||68 years old|
|yesunahop sal||69 years old|
|ilheun sal||70 years old|
|ilheunhan sal||71 years old|
|ilheundu sal||72 years old|
|ilheunse sal||73 years old|
|ilheunne sal||74 years old|
|ilheundaseot sal||75 years old|
|ilheunyeoseot sal||76 years old|
|ilheunilgop sal||77 years old|
|ilheunyeodeol sal||78 years old|
|ilheunahop sal||79 years old|
|yeodeun sal||80 years old|
|yeodeunhan sal||81 years old|
|yeodeundu sal||82 years old|
|yeodeunse sal||83 years old|
|yeodeunne sal||84 years old|
|yeodeundaseot sal||85 years old|
|yeodeunyeoseot sal||86 years old|
|yeodeunilgop sal||87 years old|
|yeodeunyeodeol sal||88 years old|
|yeodeunahop sal||89 years old|
|aheun sal||90 years old|
|aheunhan sal||91 years old|
|aheundu sal||92 years old|
|aheunse sal||93 years old|
|aheunne sal||94 years old|
|aheundaseot sal||95 years old|
|aheunyeoseot sal||96 years old|
|aheunilgop sal||97 years old|
|aheunyeodeol sal||98 years old|
|aheunahop sal||99 years old|
|baek sal||100 years old|
|baekan sal||101 years old|
|baekdu sal||102 years old|
|baekse sal||103 years old|
|baengne sal||104 years old|
|baekdaseot sal||105 years old|
|baengnyeoseot sal||106 years old|
|baegilgop sal||107 years old|
|baengnyeodeol sal||108 years old|
|baegahop sal||109 years old|
|baengnyeol sal||110 years old|
|baengnyeolhan sal||111 years old|
How to Ask Someone’s Korean Age
There are two different ways to ask for a person’s Korean age.
“How old are you” in Korean
The first way is to directly use the sentence “how old are you.” Here’s how you can say it in Korean:
나이가 어떻게 되세요? (naiga eotteoke doeseyo?)
How old are you?
The example above is the standard way of asking this question. However, there are more ways to say this, which will be further discussed below.
“What’s your date of birth” in Korean
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.
“Age” in Korean
There are three words that can be used to say “age” in Korean. If you are speaking to somebody who is a lot older than you, or if you are in a formal setting, then you should use the word 연세 (yeonse).
If you are speaking to somebody younger than you or of a similar age, you can use the words 나이 (nai) or 살 (sal).
살 (sal) translates as something closer to “years old” rather than age. If you want to say “years old” when talking about someone a lot older than you, then you should say 세 (se) instead of 살 (sal).
Somewhat ironically, to ask somebody their age in Korean, you have to guess how old they are to allow you to use the correct level of politeness.
There is a big chance of confusion when non-Koreans talk about age with Koreans. The way that most South 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
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.
Other Korean Age Terms
You may also hear these terms when people are talking about the 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
How to Say “How Old Are You” in Korean
There are different ways to say “How old are you” in Korean, depending on who you are speaking with. We’ve listed them below.
Formal “How Old Are You” in Korean
Here is how you can ask “How old are you” in Korean formally.
1. 연세가 어떻게 되십니까? (yeonsega eotteoke doeshimnikka)
If you are in a formal situation such as a presentation or interview, then you can use the above expression to ask how old somebody is.
A: 연세가 어떻게 되십니까? (yeonsega eotteoke doesimnikka)
How old are you?
B: 마흔다섯 살입니다. (maheundaseot sarimnida)
I am 45 years old.
Standard “How Old Are You” in Korean
There are several ways to ask this question in Korean. Here are some of them.
1. 연세가 어떻게 되세요? (yeonsega eotteoke doeseyo)
This is usually used when speaking to somebody older than you.
2. 나이가 어떻게 되세요? (naiga eotteoke doeseyo)
If you are speaking to somebody of a similar age, then you can say this to ask, “How old are you” in Korean.
3. 몇 살이에요? (myeot sarieyo)
This is another way to ask when talking to someone of the same age, although 몇 살이에요 (myeot sarieyo) sounds a bit less formal than 나이가 어떻게 되세요 (naiga eotteoke doeseyo)?
A: 나이가 어떻게 되세요? (naiga eotteoke doeseyo)
How old are you?
B: 스무 살이에요. (seumu sarieyo)
I’m 20 years old.
Informal “How Old Are You” in Korean
Below is how you can ask someone about their age in an informal way. However, if you ask somebody their age, you are probably not close enough to them to get away with using informal language.
1. 몇 살이야? (myeot sariya)
It is best to play it safe and say 몇 살이에요 (myeot sarieyo)? instead of 몇 살이야 (myeot sariya)?
When is the international age used in Korea?
Generally, the Korean age is used for social interactions with people, whereas the international age is used for more official things. For example, the legal age in Korea that is written on alcohol, cigarettes, movie posters, and so on is based on the international age.
Legal age in Korea
For most things, the minimum age or legal age in South Korea is 19. This means an international age of 18.
Legal Drinking age in Korea
The legal drinking age in South Korea is 20 years old (Korean age). This means you must have an international age of at least 19 years old to legally drink alcoholic beverages in South Korea.
Underage drinking is controlled in South Korea by establishments doing ID checks. This prevents the selling of alcoholic beverages to people below the legal drinking age. The underage drinking law in South Korea remains to be not as strictly enforced as they are in some other countries.
Military conscription age in Korea
One of the duties of male South Koreans is to render service in the military for about 2 years. According to Korean law, all men aged 19 years old to 28 years old must perform military service.
When Do Koreans Celebrate their Birthdays?
Everybody has their own birthday, complete with cake and candles. South Koreans celebrate their birthday on the day they were born, just like how the international age system works. But on your birthday in Korea, you are not considered one year older than the day before.
Instead, South 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.
Video: Korean birthday celebrations
Here’s a video explanation of when South Koreans celebrate their birthdays.
If you learned something from this video, you could also subscribe to our YouTube Channel for other helpful videos!
Wow, we are the same age!
As age determines a complete host of social interactions in Korea, being of the same age 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 the 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 the 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 you know the difference between the Korean age and the international age and how to use the Korean age calculator! This is an important aspect of Korean culture, so don’t be upset that you have suddenly become two years older. After all, age is just a number!
Other interesting questions that you might be asked when meeting new people are about your zodiac sign or blood type. Make sure to visit our articles about them, too, so you’d be prepared to answer them all!
If you liked this article and want to learn Korean, head over here for more great resources:
- The how-to guide for learning the language: https://www.90daykorean.com/learn-korean/
- Korean Phrase List: https://www.90daykorean.com/korean-phrases/
- Korean Grammar Guide: https://www.90daykorean.com/korean-grammar/
- Korean Sentence Structure: https://www.90daykorean.com/korean-sentence-structure/
- Why Learn Korean?: https://www.90daykorean.com/why-learn-korean/