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How does age work in Korea?


Age is an important aspect of Korean culture, with a unique system that differs from the Western concept of age. In Korea, age is not only determined by the number of years one has lived but also by their social status and position in society. Understanding how age works in Korea is essential for anyone planning to visit or work in the country.

Birth and First Birthday

In Korea, a person is considered one year old at birth, and everyone’s age increases on January 1st every year, regardless of their actual birthdate. The first birthday, or doljanchi, is a significant milestone in Korean culture and is celebrated with a feast and traditional rituals.

Age in School

Age plays a crucial role in the Korean education system as students are grouped according to their birth year. This means that children born in the same year attend the same grade level, and there is no skipping grades or starting school early.

Age and Language

In Korean language, there are different honorifics used based on age. The older someone is, the more formal language they use. This means that Koreans have to be aware of their own age and the age of others around them when speaking.

Aging Up

Koreans celebrate their aging up or becoming a year older every January 1st with a special meal called seollal. This tradition is significant because it marks the beginning of a new year and symbolizes starting fresh.

Age and Social Status

Korean society places great importance on seniority, which means that older people hold more power and respect than younger people. This affects relationships, business dealings, and even job promotions.

Aging Gracefully

In Korea, there is an emphasis on staying young and looking good. The cosmetic industry is massive, and there are many products and treatments available to help people maintain their youthful appearance.

Age and Military Service

All able-bodied Korean men are required to serve in the military for about two years. However, there are exemptions for those who are over a certain age, have certain disabilities, or are the only son in the family.

Retirement Age

The retirement age in Korea is currently 60 years old. However, there is a push to raise this age due to the increasing aging population and the need for people to work longer.

Age and Marriage

In Korea, it is common for people to get married later in life than in Western countries. This is partly due to the emphasis on education and career, but also because of social pressure to marry someone who is of the same age or older.

Age and Death

Death is an important aspect of Korean culture, with many traditions and rituals surrounding it. There is a belief that the spirit of the deceased stays around for 49 days after death, and there are ceremonies held on the 7th and 49th days after death.


Age is a complex concept in Korean culture that affects every aspect of life. From education to language to social status and beyond, understanding how age works in Korea is essential for anyone wanting to integrate into Korean society. By embracing these traditions and customs, visitors and expats can gain a deeper appreciation for Korean culture.

How old would a 14 year old be in Korean?

This guide, updated in 2023, explains how to express your age in Korean. It includes the birth year and corresponding age in Korean, such as “열세 살” for 13 years old and “열네 살” for 14 years old. The guide covers ages up to 16 years old.

How old would a 16 year old be in Korea?

In Korean culture, a person’s age is calculated differently. If your birthday has not occurred yet, you add two years to your age to determine your Korean age. For example, if today is February 2, 2023, and you are 20 years old, your Korean age would be 22.

Is 18 a minor in Korea?

A “child” refers to an individual who has not yet reached the age of 18.

Can I drink in Korea if I’m 18?

The legal drinking age in Korea is 19 years old for alcohol consumption. While drinking in public is allowed, behaving in a disorderly manner while under the influence of alcohol could lead to severe penalties such as expensive fines or being taken to the police station.

How old are Koreans in 12th grade?

The education system typically categorizes students into different levels or grades based on their age. For example, 11th grade is typically for students who are 16-17 years old, while 12th grade is for those who are 17-18 years old. After high school, students may attend tertiary education, such as college or university, which usually lasts for four years and is divided into freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior years, although the exact age range can vary.

Why do Koreans count age differently?

Korean age is distinct from international age or Western age, as it is determined by two factors. Firstly, a person is considered one year old at the time of their birth. Secondly, a person ages another year during the turn of the calendar year. Hence, a person’s date of birth does not determine their Korean age.

Age and Family

Family is an important aspect of Korean culture, and age plays a significant role in family dynamics. The eldest son is traditionally expected to take care of his parents in their old age, and there is a hierarchy within the family based on age. Respect for elders is also deeply ingrained in Korean culture, with younger family members expected to show deference to their older relatives.

Age and Business

Age is also an important factor in Korean business culture. Older businesspeople are often seen as more experienced and respected, and they may hold higher positions within companies. Younger employees are expected to show respect for their older colleagues and may have to work their way up through the ranks before being given more significant responsibilities.

Age and Technology

While traditional Korean culture places a strong emphasis on age, modern technology has brought about changes in how age is perceived. Social media platforms and messaging apps have made it easier for people of different ages to communicate and connect with each other. Additionally, there is a growing trend of older Koreans embracing technology and using it to stay connected with friends and family.

Age and Health

In Korea, there is a growing concern about the health implications of an aging population. As people live longer, there is an increased risk of chronic diseases such as dementia and cardiovascular disease. The government has implemented policies aimed at promoting healthy lifestyles among older adults, such as exercise programs and nutritional education.

Age and Fashion

Korean fashion has become increasingly popular around the world in recent years, with trends such as K-pop influencing global fashion trends. Age is not necessarily a barrier to fashion in Korea, with many older Koreans embracing new styles and trends. However, there is still a cultural emphasis on looking youthful, which can influence fashion choices for some people.

Age and Politics

Age is also an important factor in Korean politics. The country’s current president, Moon Jae-in, is in his late 60s, and there is a tradition of electing older leaders who are seen as experienced and wise. However, there is also a growing movement of younger Koreans becoming involved in politics and pushing for change in the country.

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