Jan. 1st Might Be All Koreans’ Birthday

oreans get a year older on the New Year’s Day. Does it mean that all Koreans have same birthday on January 1st? OF COURSE NOT.

Korea has its unique age system that neglects one’s birthday.
Koreans’ age system can be quite complicated and many Koreans, honestly, don’t like it that much.

efore talking about Korean age, let’s start with HOW Koreans grow a year older on the New Year’s Day. Koreans eat 떡국 (tteokguk), a sliced rice cake soup on Jan 1st. It’s a tradition that began hundreds of years ago.

Tteokguk represents two things : (1) good health and long life, and (2) growing a year older. Koreans say, you eat a year as eating tteokguk, meaning you are growing a year older.

Here’s little recipe and ingredients of Tteokguk :
– a sliced rice cake
– egg garnish
– green onion
– dashi & anchovy base soup
– beef
– minced garlic
– salt
– soy sauce

What exactly is Korea’s unique age system, aka “counting age”? It’s quite simple. You get a year older on the New Year’s Day regardless of your birthday. Which means, If Baby G is born on Dec. 31st in Korea, she becomes two on the next day (Jan. 1st).

There are two famous theories behind the origin of this ‘counting age’ system .
(1) The Korean ancestors considered 10 months inside the mother’s womb as a baby’s a first year.
(2) Countries under East Asian cultural sphere, including Korea, had no concept of “zero” so they had to start with “one.”

And there’s international age. International age is used with legal, governmental related things.

Many Koreans actually don’t like using “counting age” because it’s making their life more complicated. They have to explain why they are older in Korea and, most importantly, they age faster than those in any other countries! There are ongoing petitions asking for the official and daily use of international age.

A: “How old are you?” ????
B: “I’m 30 but I’m also 28.”

QUESTION : How Old Are You in Korean Age?

(1) Think of your age.
(2) If you’ve already spent your birthday this year, ADD 1 to your age. If you did not spend your birthday yet, ADD 2 to your age.

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