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Why do Koreans care about age?


In Korean culture, age is an essential aspect that holds significant value. Age determines how Koreans interact with each other, their social status, and even their career prospects. Understanding why Koreans care about age is crucial to understanding the country’s culture and the people’s behaviors.

Historical Background

The importance of age in Korean culture dates back to the Joseon dynasty. During this era, Confucianism became the dominant philosophy that shaped Korean society. Confucianism emphasized respect for elders and hierarchical relationships based on age and social status.

Respect for Elders

One of the fundamental values in Korean culture is respect for elders. This means that younger people should show deference to those who are older than them. Age is seen as a sign of wisdom and experience, and it is believed that older people should be treated with respect and honor.

Age-Based Hierarchy

Age-based hierarchy is a central aspect of Korean culture. It determines how Koreans interact with each other, their social status, and even their career prospects. The oldest person in a group is often given the most respect and authority.

Social Status

In Korea, age is closely tied to social status. Older people are often seen as having more authority and power than younger people. This can affect everything from job prospects to social interactions.

Career Prospects

Age can also play a significant role in career prospects. In Korea, it is common for companies to hire based on age rather than qualifications. Younger workers may struggle to find employment, while older workers may have an advantage.

Korean Language

The Korean language also reflects the importance of age in Korean culture. There are specific words and phrases that are used depending on the age and social status of the person being addressed.

Birthday Celebrations

Birthdays are significant events in Korean culture, and they are often celebrated with traditional ceremonies. These ceremonies are based on the lunar calendar, which means that a person’s age may be different from their western age.

Coming of Age Day

Coming of Age Day is a significant event in Korea, where young people celebrate their transition into adulthood. This event is based on the Korean age system, where a person is considered one year old at birth and gains another year on New Year’s Day.

Age-Based Gifts

In Korea, it is common to give gifts based on a person’s age. For example, a person who has just turned 60 may receive a special gift to honor their milestone birthday.

International Age

Koreans use a different system to calculate age than the western system. This means that a person’s international age may be different from their Korean age. It is important to understand this difference when interacting with Koreans.


In conclusion, age is an essential aspect of Korean culture. Understanding why Koreans care about age is crucial to understanding the country’s culture and the people’s behaviors. Age determines how Koreans interact with each other, their social status, and even their career prospects.

Is age gap important in Korea?

In South Korean culture, a 12-year age difference between a couple is considered significant because it means they are separated by a full zodiac cycle.

Why do Koreans look so much younger than their real age?

Certain Western individuals may have thinner skin and less melanin, making them more susceptible to sun damage, whereas Korean skin is said to contain substances that effectively absorb and break down sunlight in their skin structure. This is important for anti-aging habits.

Why do Koreans respect elders?

The Koreans in East Asia have a strong cultural tradition of showing respect for their elders, which originates from the teachings of Confucianism regarding the importance of filial piety. This value system has played a major role in shaping the way Koreans, as well as the Chinese and Japanese, treat their parents and older members of their community.

Is there ageism in Korea?

According to a 2018 survey conducted by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, 59% of elderly Koreans face challenges in finding employment due to age restrictions. Out of those who do secure jobs, 44% said they experienced age discrimination in their workplaces.

Why is age so important in South Korea?

In today’s Korean society, social interactions are influenced by Confucianism, which places a strong emphasis on showing respect for elders. According to former Seoul National University professor Robert Fouser, younger individuals are expected to demonstrate deference towards those who are older.

What is the illegal age gap in Korea?

In South Korea, the act of having consensual sexual intercourse with someone under the age of 20 in Korean age is considered a violation of statutory rape law.

Age-Based Etiquette

Age-based etiquette is also an important aspect of Korean culture. There are specific rules and customs that Koreans follow when interacting with people who are older or younger than them. For example, it is customary for younger people to use honorific language when speaking to their elders, and they should show respect by bowing.

The Elderly in Korean Society

The elderly hold a special place in Korean society, and they are often respected and honored. It is common for families to take care of their elderly relatives, and there are government programs in place to support the elderly population. However, there are also challenges facing the elderly in Korea, such as poverty and social isolation.


Despite the cultural emphasis on respecting elders, ageism is still a problem in Korea. Older workers may face discrimination in the workplace, and they may struggle to find employment after a certain age. There are efforts underway to address ageism in Korean society and promote equal opportunities for people of all ages.

Changing Attitudes Toward Age

As Korea becomes more modernized and globalized, there are changing attitudes toward age in Korean society. Some younger Koreans are challenging traditional notions of age-based hierarchy and challenging stereotypes about older people. However, these changes are slow-moving and may take time to fully integrate into Korean culture.


In conclusion, age plays a crucial role in Korean culture and society. Understanding the importance of age can help foreigners navigate social interactions and avoid cultural misunderstandings. While there are challenges facing older people in Korea, there are also efforts underway to promote respect for elders and combat ageism. As Korea continues to evolve, attitudes toward age may continue to change, but the importance of respecting elders will likely remain a fundamental value in Korean culture.

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