Did you know that in Korea and some other Asian countries, when you are born, you are considered one year old and everyone’s age increases one year on New Years. So if you were born on December 29th, on New years day, you will be considered 2 years old.
East Asian age reckoning is a concept and practice that originated in China and is widely used by other cultures in East Asia. Newborns start at one year old, and each passing of a Lunar New Year, rather than the birthday, adds one year to the person’s age. In other words, the first year of life is counted as one instead of zero, so that a person is two years old in his or her second year, three years old in his or her third, and so on. Since age is incremented on the Lunar New Year rather than on a birthday, people may be one or two years older in Asian reckoning than in the Western system.
The system is also widely used by South Koreans, with the exception of the legal system. In Eastern Outer Mongolia, age is traditionally determined based on the number of full moons since conception for girls, and the number of new moons since birth for boys. In Japan and Vietnam it is used for traditional fortune-telling or religion, but it is disappearing in daily life among people in the city.
Koreans generally refer to their age in units called sal , using Korean numerals in ordinal form. Thus, a person is one sal during the first calendar year of life, and ten sal during the tenth calendar year.
The 100th-day anniversary of a baby is called baegil , which literally means “a hundred days” in Korean, and is given a special celebration, marking the survival of what was once a period of high infant mortality. The first anniversary of birth named dol is likewise celebrated, and given even greater significance. Koreans celebrate their birthdays, even though every Korean gains one ‘sal’ on New Year’s Day. Because the first year comes at birth and the second on the first day of the lunar New Year, a child born, for example, on December 29 (of the lunar calendar) will reach two years of age on Seolnal (Korean New Year), when they are only days old in western reckoning.
In modern Korea the traditional system is most often used. The international age system is referred to as “man-nai” in which “man” means “full” or “actual”, and “nai” meaning “age”. For example, man yeol sal means “full ten years”, or “ten years old” in English. The Korean word dol means “years elapsed”, identical to the English “years old”, but is only used to refer to the first few birthdays. Cheotdol or simply dol refers to the first Western-equivalent birthday, dudol refers to the second, and so on.
The Korean Birthday Celebrations by the lunar calendar is called eumnyeok saeng-il and yangnyeok saeng-il is the birthday by Gregorian calendar.
For official government uses, documents, and legal procedures, a chronological age system is used akin to the system used in Western countries. Regulations regarding age limits on beginning school, on alcohol and tobacco use, as well as the age of consent, are all based on a chronological system