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What is considered old age in Korea?


Old age is a universal concept that varies from culture to culture. In Korea, the perception of old age has evolved over time, shaped by cultural values, historical events, and social norms. This article aims to explore what is considered old age in Korea and how it has changed over the years.

Historical Perspective

In traditional Korea, old age was highly respected and revered. The elderly were considered the wise and experienced members of society, and their opinions were valued. They were also expected to take care of their grandchildren and play an active role in family life. However, this changed during the Japanese occupation period when the elderly were marginalized and subjected to discriminatory policies.

Current Perception

Today, the perception of old age in Korea is more complex. On one hand, there is still a cultural reverence for the elderly, especially among Confucian followers who value filial piety. On the other hand, the rapid modernization and demographic changes have led to a shift in attitudes towards aging. Many older Koreans face social isolation, discrimination, and economic hardship.

Retirement Age

The retirement age in Korea is 60 for most industries, although it can vary depending on the sector. However, many Koreans continue to work well into their 70s or even 80s due to financial reasons or a desire to stay active. There are also government policies that encourage companies to hire older workers.

Healthcare for the Elderly

Korea has a comprehensive healthcare system that covers all citizens, including the elderly. There are also specialized clinics and hospitals that cater to geriatric patients. However, there are concerns about the quality of care and access to medical services in rural areas.


Koreans have one of the highest life expectancies in the world, with an average of 83 years for women and 78 years for men. This is attributed to factors such as a healthy diet, low smoking rates, and a strong social support system. However, there are also concerns about the growing number of elderly Koreans living in poverty and facing health issues.

Social Welfare

The Korean government provides various social welfare programs for the elderly, including pension schemes, free medical checkups, and subsidies for public transportation. There are also community centers and volunteer groups that offer support and social activities for older people.

Inter-generational Relationships

Inter-generational relationships are highly valued in Korean culture, with the elderly often playing a central role in family life. However, there are also tensions between generations due to differences in values and lifestyles. Many younger Koreans feel pressure to provide financial support for their parents and grandparents, which can lead to conflict.

Attitudes towards Aging

There is a growing awareness in Korea about the need to challenge negative stereotypes about aging and promote a more positive image of older people. Various media campaigns and initiatives have been launched to encourage inter-generational dialogue and combat ageism.

Cultural Representations

Old age is a common theme in Korean literature, film, and television dramas. Many works depict the challenges and joys of aging, as well as the complex relationships between generations. However, there are also criticisms that these representations often perpetuate stereotypes and reinforce negative attitudes towards aging.


In conclusion, old age is a multifaceted concept in Korea that reflects both traditional values and modern realities. While there is still a cultural reverence for the elderly, there are also challenges such as social isolation, economic hardship, and discrimination. As Korea continues to grapple with demographic changes and an aging population, it is important to promote a more positive and inclusive image of aging.

What age is considered elderly in Korea?

As of 2022, there were roughly 2 million individuals who were 65 years or older living in Gyeonggi Province, South Korea, while Seoul had approximately 1.66 million. Across the country, the total number of people in this age group was around 9.27 million in the same year. This information was reported on February 24th, 2023.

How do Korean count their age?

In Korea, when you are born, you are automatically considered to be one year old because the time you spent in the womb is counted as the first year of your life, even though it’s only nine months. As a result, your Korean age will always be at least one year older than your international or Western age.

Why is Korean fertility so low?

Studies indicate that lower fertility rates can be attributed to a combination of economic factors such as income and job market conditions, and socio-cultural factors such as shifts in education and gender roles, as well as changes in family and health policies.

Do Koreans age differently?

South Korea is transitioning to the “international age” system, where a person’s age begins at zero and increases by one every year on their birthday. This means that someone born on December 10, 2000 would be considered 22 in the international age system, 23 in the counting age system, and 24 in the Korean age system as of December 10, 2022.

Why is age so important in Korea?

In contemporary Korea, societal hierarchies based on age stem from the influence of Confucianism, which prioritizes reverence for one’s elders. As explained by Robert Fouser, a former professor at Seoul National University, it is customary for younger individuals to demonstrate respect towards those who are older.

How do Korean maintain their weight?

Koreans maintain a healthy and balanced diet that consists of mostly vegetables and minimal processed foods. This dietary habit helps them stay in good shape without much effort.

Technology and Aging

Technology has become increasingly important in the lives of older Koreans, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many to stay at home. Many older Koreans have embraced technology, using smartphones, tablets, and social media to stay connected with friends and family. There are also apps and devices designed specifically for older people, such as health monitoring systems and memory aids.

Housing for the Elderly

Housing is an important issue for older Koreans, especially those who live alone or face mobility issues. There are various options available, such as retirement homes, assisted living facilities, and senior-friendly apartments. However, there are also concerns about affordability and access to these options.


Caregiving is a major issue for many older Koreans, as they often rely on family members for support. However, there are also concerns about the burden placed on caregivers, many of whom are women. The government has implemented policies to support caregivers and provide respite care, but there is still a need for more comprehensive solutions.

Age-Friendly Cities

The concept of age-friendly cities has gained traction in Korea in recent years, with efforts to create more livable communities for older people. This includes initiatives such as improving public transportation and infrastructure, promoting social inclusion, and providing services tailored to the needs of older residents.

Future Challenges

As Korea’s population continues to age, there are several challenges that must be addressed. These include ensuring access to healthcare and social services, supporting caregivers and families, promoting inter-generational dialogue and understanding, and combating ageism and negative stereotypes about aging. It will require a concerted effort from government, civil society organizations, and individuals to create a more inclusive and supportive environment for all generations.

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