When the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve, baby Yoon Seol turned ‘two years old’ just hours after being born.
That’s because South Korea has an unusual age-calculating system based on the traditional Chinese system.
Babies are considered to be one as soon as they are born and they gain another year on the first day of the new year.
Many other Asian nations, including China, Japan and Vietnam, have abandoned the practice.
Although South Korea has officially used Western-style calculations since the early 1960s, the traditional practice remains.
It means its citizens have to contend with two different ages: the Western-style one and their traditional one.
Parents of children born late in the year usually worry their children will fall behind compared to their peers born several months earlier.
Yoon Seol’s father, Lee Dong Kil, said that after he informed his family and friends of the new addition to his family late on December 31.
“Some of my playful friends joked about my baby becoming two-year-old only hours after her birth,” he said.
“I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry,” he added.
His wife, Ryu Da Gyeong, said she worried about “the vast difference between our baby and the others in terms of physical and intellectual growth” when Yoon Seol will start going to the daycare centre.
“Therefore, as long as those who are not in our shoes are not negatively affected, I hope there will be legislation that prevents my daughter being unfairly treated later on in her life.”
Hwang Juhong, a lawmaker, tabled a bill earlier this year requiring the government to put international ages in official documents, thus encouraging general citizens to go with their international ages in everyday life.
It’s the first legislative attempt to abolish “Korean age”.
“There are a number of ways of counting age in our country that people find it so confusing. There are at least four different ways of counting age. South Korea is the only country in the world that has such age counting system,” he explained.
“Even North Korea doesn’t have such age counting system. China and Japan also have unified ways of counting age a long time ago. We should have already unified our age counting system,” he added.
Instead, North Korea uses the Western age calculating system, but they have a twist: they follow their own calendar that’s based on the birth of national founder and president-for-life Kim Il Sung.