Korea has a unique age system that is different from the international age. In general, our age changes based on our birthdays. However, in Korea, everyone ages one year at the same time in the new year, and the age does not change just because birthdays pass. Therefore, everyone born in the same year has the same age. For example, a person born in 2000 will be 24 by 2023. During 2023, he will live as a 24-year-old regardless of his birthday.
This unique system also had a significant influence on Korean culture. In Korea, the names are different by age, and the ranking relationship is determined based on age. If someone is older than you, you would not call them by their name but use titles such as “brother” or “sister.” That’s why Koreans ask for their name and age when they first meet each other. This is because they need to know each others’ age to decide what to call the other person and what attitude to have toward them.
Another factor this influences is meals. At home, Koreans start eating when the oldest person eats. At a restaurant, the youngest person tends to grill meat or pour water for the table. In most cases, the culture is appreciated and is not viewed as strict.
I think this age-related hierarchy creates Korea’s “quick” culture. Koreans are short-tempered and have a culture of dealing with everything quickly. They worry about the future, don’t think comfortably, and always feel anxious. The reason may be that they don’t want to fall behind someone younger than them. Koreans use polite expressions for older people, so it becomes weird to name those younger than you with higher social status. Therefore, a one-year difference in age makes a big difference and drives Koreans toward self-development so as not to fall behind young people.
This system has been in place for a very long time. However, due to the many inconveniences with this age system, it will be changed this year. These aspects of culture seem like small changes, but they have a great impact on many cultural factors. If so, how will Korean cultures, such as names and attitudes according to age, change and be defined in the future?