Korean Age – Calculator and Explanation of the System

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!

Birthday Cake with a number 1 candle

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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. In counting someone’s age in Korea, Koreans also consider a year in the womb, 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.

Korean Age

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 it won’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 documents like medical and legal documents in South Korea. This new age system was established to reduce confusion in counting age 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.

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 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 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.

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

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 Members Age

If you have already familiarized yourself with 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 to practice knowing 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 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.

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

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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.

For most things, the minimum age or legal age in South Korea is 19. This means an international age of 18.

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 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 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 to 28 must perform compulsory military service.

When Do Koreans Celebrate Their Birthdays?

Everybody in South Korea shares the same birthday: January 1st or New Year’s Day. 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. 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 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.

When do 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, 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!

Wrap up

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:

  1. The 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/
  5. Why Learn Korean?: https://www.90daykorean.com/why-learn-korean/
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295 thoughts on “Korean Age – Calculator and Explanation of the System”

  1. I don’t know if this already asked before, but regarding using international age as reference to official matter and legal activity, do Korean considered adults (on term legal age) on January 1st or on their birthday?
    Thank you

  2. Why is “imnida” spelled as 입니다 and not 임니다 ? And why does ᄉ sometimes pronounced as “t”? I’m confused on how to pronounce, spell and choose consonants. Thank you!

    1. Good question! ‘입니다’ is actually pronounced as [임니다] in Korean for its convenience! And mong all the consonants, only 7 consonants ‘ㄱ, ㄴ, ㄷ, ㄹ, ㅁ, ㅂ, ㅇ’ are used to pronounce the batchim words! So ‘ㅅ, ㅈ, ㅊ, ㅌ, ㅎ’ are all pronounced as ‘ㄷ’ and written as ‘t’ in romanization when they’re at the bottom of the word! For example, 갓 is pronounced as [갇], 찾다 [찯따], 밭 [받].

  3. 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!

    1. 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.

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