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What is the age gap in Korea?


Korean society is unique in many ways, including its social norms and customs. One of the most interesting aspects of Korean culture is the age gap, which is commonly observed in various social settings. This article aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the age gap in Korea, including its origins, historical significance, and contemporary implications.

Historical Background

The age gap in Korea has its roots in Confucianism, an ancient Chinese philosophy that greatly influenced Korean culture. Confucianism emphasized the importance of respecting one’s elders, and this concept was particularly strong in Korea, where filial piety was considered a core value. As a result, age became an important factor in determining social hierarchy and interpersonal relationships.

Age-Based Terminology

Korean language has specific words for different age groups, which reflects the importance of age in Korean society. For example, “oppa” (older brother) and “unnie” (older sister) are used to address people who are older than oneself, while “dongsaeng” (younger sibling) is used to refer to someone younger. These terms are used not only within families but also among friends and colleagues.

Social Norms

The age gap also affects social norms and expectations in Korea. For example, it is common for younger people to show respect to their elders by using honorific language and bowing when greeting them. Additionally, older people are often given preferential treatment in various settings, such as public transportation or restaurants.

Workplace Dynamics

The age gap is particularly pronounced in Korean workplaces, where seniority is highly valued. Employees are typically promoted based on their length of service rather than their performance or qualifications, which can lead to a rigid hierarchy and limited opportunities for younger workers. This system is known as “jeongseon” and has been criticized for its lack of meritocracy.

Dating and Marriage

The age gap also plays a role in dating and marriage in Korea. Traditionally, it was common for men to marry women who were younger than them, sometimes by a significant margin. However, this trend has started to shift in recent years, with more couples choosing to marry based on compatibility rather than age.


The age gap also affects education in Korea, where students are grouped by their age rather than their academic abilities. This system can lead to pressure and competition among students, as they are often compared to their peers who are the same age. Additionally, older students may feel ashamed or embarrassed if they are still in school beyond the typical age range.

Generational Differences

Korean society is currently experiencing a generational divide, with older and younger generations having different values and priorities. This divide has been attributed to various factors, including rapid economic growth, globalization, and technological advancements. As a result, there can be tension and misunderstandings between different age groups.

Challenges and Opportunities

While the age gap can create challenges in Korean society, it also presents opportunities for intergenerational learning and cooperation. Younger people can benefit from the wisdom and experience of their elders, while older people can learn from the fresh perspectives and ideas of younger generations. Additionally, bridging the age gap can help create a more harmonious and inclusive society.

Changing Attitudes

Despite the long-standing tradition of respecting one’s elders, attitudes towards the age gap are starting to change in Korea. Younger generations are becoming more assertive and independent, challenging traditional norms and expectations. Additionally, there is a growing awareness of the need for diversity and inclusivity in Korean society, which includes respecting people of all ages.


In conclusion, the age gap is a unique feature of Korean culture that has its roots in Confucianism. While it has created challenges and limitations, it also provides opportunities for intergenerational learning and cooperation. As Korean society continues to evolve, it will be interesting to see how attitudes towards the age gap change and adapt.

What age gap is acceptable in Korea?

In Korean culture, a 12-year age difference between a couple is considered significant as it indicates that they are a complete zodiac cycle apart.

What is normal age gap for marriage in Korea?

Statistics Korea reports that the average age of men and women at their first marriage as of 2020 is 33.2 and 30.8, respectively, with men typically being older than women. This age difference is often a deliberate choice. Additionally, the average cost per person for a wedding exceeded 50 million won in 2013.

How old would I be in Korea if I’m 18?

This article provides updated information on how to express one’s age in Korean, including the age corresponding to different birth years. The table shows the Korean expressions for ages ranging from 17 to 100.

Can a 20 year old date a 18 year old in Korea?

In South Korea, it is considered statutory rape if someone engages in sexual activity with a person under the age of 20 in Korean age, even if it is consensual. There is no exception for individuals who are close in age.

Can a 19 year old date a 20 year old in South Korea?

According to a question on Quora, it was asked if it is against the law in South Korea for a 19-year-old and a 22-year-old to date. The answer provided was that it is completely legal for someone who is 22 years old to date someone who is 19 years old in South Korea. This is not considered to be the same as getting married, which is also legally allowed.

Can Kim marry Kim in Korea?

For a long time, South Korea had a law that prohibited marriage between individuals with the same paternal surname and ancestral origin. However, in 1997, the Constitutional Court declared the law unconstitutional, and in 2005, the civil code was revised to only prohibit marriage between closely related individuals.

The Impact of Globalization

Globalization has had a significant impact on the age gap in Korea. As Korean society becomes more connected to the rest of the world, younger generations are exposed to new ideas and perspectives that challenge traditional values. Additionally, the rise of social media and technology has given younger people a platform to express their opinions and connect with others who share their views.

The Role of Gender

Gender also plays a role in the age gap in Korea. While older men are often respected and valued in Korean society, older women may face discrimination and marginalization. This is particularly true for single women, who may be seen as “leftover” or undesirable if they have not married by a certain age.

The Future of the Age Gap

It is unclear how the age gap will evolve in Korea in the coming years. While some traditional values may persist, younger generations are increasingly pushing back against rigid hierarchies and strict social norms. Additionally, as Korea continues to face demographic challenges such as an aging population and low birth rates, there may be a greater emphasis on intergenerational cooperation and collaboration.


The age gap is a complex and multifaceted aspect of Korean culture that has both positive and negative implications. While it can create challenges and limitations, it also provides opportunities for intergenerational learning and cooperation. As Korea continues to evolve, it will be interesting to see how attitudes towards the age gap change and adapt. Ultimately, fostering understanding and respect between different age groups will be key to creating a harmonious and inclusive society in Korea.

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