Korean Age: All About Age in Korea

Girl with a birthday hat on singing happy birthday with her hands near her face

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

We’ll fill you in on what you need to know about age in Korea, including your own Korean age!

Girl with a birthday hat on singing happy birthday with her hands near her face

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 (noona) or  언니 (eonni), if they are younger, they will be your 동생 (dongsaeng).

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With all this importance put on age, answering the question ‘How old are you?’ is very important. But the answer to the question might not be as simple as you think it is.

What is Korean Age?

Age in Korea is different from age in other countries. You may be thirty years old whether you are in the USA, France, or Russia, but as soon as you arrive in Korea, you magically become thirty-one or thirty-two. How can this be? Well, Koreans have a different way of calculating their age than people in other countries.

Korean Age

People in most countries calculate their age based on their birthday. If you were born on April 1st 2000, then you would turn 17 on April 1st 2017. However, in Korea, age isn’t calculated based on your birthday.

A Year in the Womb

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.

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.

What is my Korean age?

There are three simple ways to figure out your Korean age. Pick whichever one you like the best:

1. Use the Korean Age Calculator

This method is super easy, just scroll down to “Korean Age Calculator” and input your birth year.

 

2. 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)

 

3. 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 1 or 2 years more than your international age.

Korean Age Calculator

Use this simple tool to get your Korean age. Just enter your birth year, and it will give you your Korean age.

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

How to Say Your Age in Korean

You can say your Korean age by using this sentence.

Example:

저는 스물살입니다 (jeoneun seu-mul-sal-im-ni-da).

This means “I am 20 years old”. You can substitute your age by using the chart below.

KoreanRomanizationEnglish
한 살han sal1 year old
두 살du sal2 years old
세 살se sal3 years old
네 살ne sal4 years old
다섯 살daseot sal5 years old
여섯 살yeoseot sal6 years old
일곱 살ilgop sal7 years old
여덟 살yeodeol sal8 years old
아홉 살ahop sal9 years old
열 살yeol sal10 years old
열한 살yeolhan sal11 years old
열두 살yeoldu sal12 years old
열세 살yeolse sal13 years old
열네 살yeolle sal14 years old
열다섯 살yeoldaseot sal15 years old
열여섯 살yeollyeoseot sal16 years old
열일곱 살yeorilgop sal17 years old
열여덟 살yeollyeodeol sal18 years old
열아홉 살yeorahop sal19 years old
스무 살seumu sal20 years old
스물한 살seumulhan sal21 years old
스물두 살seumuldu sal22 years old
스물세 살seumulse sal23 years old
스물네 살seumulle sal24 years old
스물다섯 살seumuldaseot sal25 years old
스물여섯 살seumullyeoseot sal26 years old
스물일곱 살seumurilgop sal27 years old
스물여덟 살seumullyeodeol sal28 years old
스물아홉 살seumurahop sal29 years old
서른 살seoreun sal30 years old
서른한 살seoreunhan sal31 years old
서른두 살seoreundu sal32 years old
서른세 살seoreunse sal33 years old
서른네 살seoreunne sal34 years old
서른다섯 살seoreundaseot sal35 years old
서른여섯 살seoreunyeoseot sal36 years old
서른일곱 살seoreunilgop sal37 years old
서른여덟 살seoreunyeodeol sal38 years old
서른아홉 살seoreunahop sal39 years old
마흔한 살maheunhan sal41 years old
마흔두 살maheundu sal42 years old
마흔세 살maheunse sal43 years old
마흔네 살maheunne sal44 years old
마흔다섯 살maheundaseot sal45 years old
마흔여섯 살maheunyeoseot sal46 years old
마흔일곱 살maheunilgop sal47 years old
마흔여덟 살maheunyeodeol sal48 years old
마흔아홉 살maheunahop sal49 years old
쉰 살swin sal50 years old
쉰한 살swinhan sal51 years old
쉰두 살swindu sal52 years old
쉰세 살swinse sal53 years old
쉰네 살swinne sal54 years old
쉰다섯 살swindaseot sal55 years old
쉰여섯 살swinyeoseot sal56 years old
쉰일곱 살swinilgop sal57 years old
쉰여덟 살swinyeodeol sal58 years old
쉰아홉 살swinahop sal59 years old
예순 살yesun sal60 years old
예순한 살yesunhan sal61 years old
예순두 살yesundu sal62 years old
예순세 살yesunse sal63 years old
예순네 살yesunne sal64 years old
예순다섯 살yesundaseot sal65 years old
예순여섯 살yesunyeoseot sal66 years old
예순일곱 살yesunilgop sal67 years old
예순여덟 살yesunyeodeol sal68 years old
예순아홉 살yesunahop sal69 years old
일흔 살ilheun sal70 years old
일흔한 살ilheunhan sal71 years old
일흔두 살ilheundu sal72 years old
일흔세 살ilheunse sal73 years old
일흔네 살ilheunne sal74 years old
일흔다섯 살ilheundaseot sal75 years old
일흔여섯 살ilheunyeoseot sal76 years old
일흔일곱 살ilheunilgop sal77 years old
일흔여덟 살ilheunyeodeol sal78 years old
일흔아홉 살ilheunahop sal79 years old
여든 살yeodeun sal80 years old
여든한 살yeodeunhan sal81 years old
여든두 살yeodeundu sal82 years old
여든세 살yeodeunse sal83 years old
여든네 살yeodeunne sal84 years old
여든다섯 살yeodeundaseot sal85 years old
여든여섯 살yeodeunyeoseot sal86 years old
여든일곱 살yeodeunilgop sal87 years old
여든여덟 살yeodeunyeodeol sal88 years old
여든아홉 살yeodeunahop sal89 years old
아흔 살aheun sal90 years old
아흔한 살aheunhan sal91 years old
아흔두 살aheundu sal92 years old
아흔세 살aheunse sal93 years old
아흔네 살aheunne sal94 years old
아흔다섯 살aheundaseot sal95 years old
아흔여섯 살aheunyeoseot sal96 years old
아흔일곱 살aheunilgop sal97 years old
아흔여덟 살aheunyeodeol sal98 years old
아흔아홉 살aheunahop sal99 years old
백 살baek sal100 years old
백한 살baekan sal101 years old
백두 살baekdu sal102 years old
백세 살baekse sal103 years old
백네 살baengne sal104 years old
백다섯 살baekdaseot sal105 years old
백여섯 살baengnyeoseot sal106 years old
백일곱 살baegilgop sal107 years old
백여덟 살baengnyeodeol sal108 years old
백아홉 살baegahop sal109 years old
백열 살baengnyeol sal110 years old
백열한 살baengnyeolhan sal111 years old

You can also ask someone’s Korean age:

나이가 어떻게 되세요? (na-i-ga eo-tteo-ke doe-se-yo?)

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 birth date (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:

1995년1월15일 (1995nyeon 1wol 15il)

This is a very common question if you go somewhere where you’ll need to be registered, such as at the dentist. 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.

한국나이 (Hanguk nai) – Korean Age

만 나이 (man nai) – international age

Example sentence:

저는 올해 스물 살이지만 만으로는 열아홉 살이에요.

(jeoneun olhae seumul salijiman maneuro yeolahop salieyo.)

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 international age. They all mean the same as ‘만 나이’.

국제나이 (gukje nai) – international age

미국나이 (miguk nai) – American age

외국나이 (oeguk nai) – foreign age

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When is international age used in Korea?

As a general rule, 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 international age ‘19’.

Why is Korean Age Different?

Korean age is different than international age because when a baby is born, the baby is automatically one year old. Koreans count a baby’s time in the womb as one year.

Also, Koreans automatically add a year to their age as soon as January 1st arrives. So that means that your Korean age may be 1 or 2 years more than your international age.

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.

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 donggapida) 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, calculate your Korean age. But don’t be upset that you have suddenly become two years older. Age is just a number, after all.

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

    • Legakwa

      Hi . I was born 14 September 2003 so does it mean that my Korean age is 17 or 18..i am a bit confused.

    • Angie

      Hello. I am really confused. My birthday is October 3, 2005. How old will I be in Korean age?

    • Evelly

      Hello .. so if I was born on 6 February 2003 that’s mean I’m 17 in Korea ? Also , wdym “if today is February 14th, and you were born in July, you would add two years to your age”?

      • 90 Day Korean

        Hi, Evelly! You are 17 years in Korea in 2019 no matter when your birthday is. ^^

    • Keely

      Hi I’m a day older than Choi Soobin, his birthday is December 5, 2000, mine is December 4, he is 20 years old in Korean age, and I am 18 in western age, who is considered the older one?

      • 90 Day Korean

        Hi, Keely! You and Soobin are considered the same age (20) in Korea. ^^

    • Mera

      Really sorry to ask as one of so many about this, my brain just is a little stuck on the subject.
      I will be doing my exchange at university in Korea from September 2020 and my birthday is 5 November 2001. Will I be of legal age (Korean age 20) (to go out, consume alcohol etc.) as a foreigner even though I will not be 19 yet as international age starting September 2020?
      Thank you^^

      • 90 Day Korean

        Don’t worry, Mera! You will be 20 years old in 2020 in Korea and you can drink soju, too! Hope you have fun in Korea! ^^

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