Race & Ethnicity

South Koreans will soon be the same age as the rest of the world

Their new president is looking to change a long-standing tradition.

South Korea, aging
Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Koreans may soon be changing the tradition of how they declare their age.

Can you remember how old you are? As we get older, remembering our actual age can get harder, especially when it begins to take longer and longer to scroll and find your birth year. Now imagine having to keep track of two different ages. For many South Koreans, this is the reality. That's right, based on a tradition that dates back so far no one really knows when it started, most South Koreans are two different ages. But their new president is looking to change the tradition, to make life easier for everyone.



Currently, South Koreans have their "Korean age" and their international age. The "Korean age" is the thing that President Yoon Suk-yeol is looking to change. The way it works is that a person is considered a year old at birth, adding a year every January 1. So if you have a baby born on December 30, on January 1, they're 2 years old, even though they've only been alive two days. The Korean age is mostly used in social situations, while the international age (where you turn 1 on your first birthday) is used for legal purposes.

“If I try to fill out a form at a government office or a foreign embassy, I’m not sure what to put for my age,” Lee Jae-hye, a video producer in Seoul, told The New York Times.

It's worth mentioning there's a third, less common way of defining age: "year age," which is kind of a hybrid of the two other practices. A newborn is considered 0 at birth, but they add the first year on January 1. So again, a December 30 baby would be 2 days old and also 1 year old. This is only used for military service and elementary education. No wonder it's confusing for the citizens.

Lee Yong-ho, chief of the president-elect's transition committee, acknowledged the stress these different ages puts on citizens.

“Due to the different calculations of legal and social age, we have experienced unnecessary social and economic costs from persistent confusion and disputes over calculating age when receiving social, welfare and other administrative services or signing or interpreting various contracts,” he said in a press briefing.

For many South Koreans, keeping track of up to three ages is just too much of a pain. Having to remember the right birth certificate because you use one for the doctor's office but another one for the DMV sounds like a nightmare. While the average person understands what paperwork they need for where, the need alone is a major source of frustration. That's why so many adults are in favor of the president's decision to make the change by the end of the year.

A survey taken this past January shows that 40% of adults believe making the change will "ease conflicts within the country’s social hierarchy." As a hierarchical society, the focus on age and having multiple ages can cause confusion and unnecessary conflict. If you search "Korean age system," you'll discover multiple calculators in case you forget or don't know. Some historians and scholars worry that the change will be a detriment to society, but there's a better chance that younger generations will embrace the universal change to international age.

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

A simple solution for all ages, really.

School should feel like a safe space. But after the tragic news of yet another mass shooting, many children are scared to death. As a parent or a teacher, it can be an arduous task helping young minds to unpack such unthinkable monstrosities. Especially when, in all honesty, the adults are also terrified.

Katelyn Campbell, a clinical psychologist in South Carolina, worked with elementary school children in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. She recently shared a simple idea that helped then, in hopes that it might help now.

The psychologist tweeted, “We had our kids draw pictures of scenery that made them feel calm—we then hung them up around the school—to make the ‘other kids who were scared’ have something calm to look at.”



“Kids, like adults, want to feel helpful when they feel helpless,” she continued, saying that drawing gave them something useful to do.

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Alberto Cartuccia Cingolani wows audiences with his amazing musical talents.

Mozart was known for his musical talent at a young age, playing the harpsichord at age 4 and writing original compositions at age 5. So perhaps it's fitting that a video of 5-year-old piano prodigy Alberto Cartuccia Cingolani playing Mozart has gone viral as people marvel at his musical abilities.

Alberto's legs can't even reach the pedals, but that doesn't stop his little hands from flying expertly over the keys as incredible music pours out of the piano at the 10th International Musical Competition "Città di Penne" in Italy. Even if you've seen young musicians play impressively, it's hard not to have your jaw drop at this one. Sometimes a kid comes along who just clearly has a gift.

Of course, that gift has been helped along by two professional musician parents. But no amount of teaching can create an ability like this.

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