Unlike most parts of the world, Korean citizens are automatically one year old the moment they are born. Once New Year comes around every January 1st, they add another year to their age regardless of birth date, making them two years older than they would be considered internationally.
BTS‘s V, for instance, was born on December 30, 1995. He was one year old on the day of his birth and two years old just a few days later on New Year’s Day. Internationally, however, he was considered only two days old.
President-elect Yoon Suk Yeol, who is scheduled to assume office in May, is pushing to change the Korean age system due to the social, economic, and legal issues that arise as a result of it. Representative Lee Yong Ho from the People Power Party explained why the president-elect wants Koreans to switch to the international age system.
If we stick to the international age system, we will no longer see the social and economic costs associated with all the confusion and inconvenience arising from the age gap.
— Representative Lee Yong Ho
The committee in charge of Yoon Suk Yeol’s transition to president will amend the Civil Code and another law that oversees how the South Korean government should run public services. These will make the international age the leading standard in everyday life for Korean citizens, a change that many called for following widespread gaps in the country’s healthcare system during the pandemic.
According to The Korea Herald, “Health authorities used the two [age] systems interchangeably to set the age bracket for the vaccine pass mandate and vaccine eligibility. Some were unable to get their shots, but were still required to show proof of vaccination.”
While the amendment is only in the works and the details are yet to be decided, there is a possibility that it will have a huge impact on the K-Pop industry, with one of them being the age requirement for mandatory military enlistment.
By using the international age officially in South Korea, K-Pop idols will be considered one to two years younger than what their usual profile indicates. Male K-Pop idols will then be able to delay their mandatory military service by two years at best. Since it is currently only possible to delay their service until they are 28 years old (Korean Age), this will come later in their lives as they are considered 26 years old internationally.
Apart from this, there will also be the obvious social change that K-Pop idols will appear younger than they are perceived to be in the country at present. The age that they mention on company profiles, Korean television shows, and more will be lowered by two. IVE‘s Wonyoung, for instance, is 19 years old in Korea but 17 years old internationally.
Representative Lee Yong Ho confirmed that the committee is taking careful steps to ensure the transition will be a smooth one. He promised that it will lead to a more seamless way of life for Koreans.
There is a reason for the kind of compromise in such laws and we will consult with experts before we think about changing them too. There would be much less confusion if we could have the same idea of what it means to be how old we actually are.
— Representative Lee Yong Ho
The switch to the international age system is expected to take effect sometime next year.