Culture Capsule 4

Why is Korean age different?

Age is calculated in an intersting way in Korea. A Korean person will say he or she is one or two years older than a non-Korean born in the same year. This is because Korean count the nine months that a baby is inside it's mother's womb, so the moment a baby is born it is already one year old. In addition, all Koreans gain another year at the passage of the new year, not on their birthday. Therefore, on babies' first New Year's Day, they will be two years old in Korea, even though it has been less than a year since they were born.
Another tradition in Korea concerning age is the use of the Chinese Zodiac. In Korea, the year in which a baby is born is linked with a Chinese Zodiac animal called "ddi"(띠). This began from an ancient Asian practice of representing each year of a twelve-year cycle with an animal. For example, the representative animal for 2008 is the mouse, so all people born in 2008 (or twelve years before or after) are mouse "ddi." For cultural reasons, Koreans are very interested in knowing each other's age, so asking someone's "ddi" are sometimes used as an indirect way of finding out.

-Write reference Korean Languge Education Center, Sogang University

1 comment:

  1. 한국에서의 나이, 즉, 세(歲)라는 것은 서양의 나이, 즉, year와 다른 개념으로 알고 있습니다.

    즉, 서양의 year는 단순한 시간의 개념이지만, 한국의 세(歲)는 각 태어난 해의 어떤 운명? 뭐 이런것으로 받아들여서, 같은해에 태어난 사람들은 모두 같은 歲로 부른다고...

    어디서 그러더라구요.

    따라서, 같은해에 태어나면 1월이든 12월이든 상관없이 같은 歲에 속하는 것이고, 따라서 똑같이 몇歲로 부른다는.

    저도 잘은 모르는데, 어디서 주워들은 거에요, 신빙성이 없을 수도 있습니당.