Waegukin - living and teaching in Korea

Korean age calculator

old korean manAn old Korean man I saw in Jinju.
blue dot
Aug 13 2012

In Korea, everyone is 1 from the time they are born. And everyone gets a year older on New Year’s day. So your Korean age is always either one or two years older than your Western age. And yes, a baby born on New Year’s Eve can be two years old the next day, although in practice people wait awhile before they start talking about somebody’s Korean age.

Working out your Korean age can be tricky. Even more so because Koreans frequently go by the Lunar (Chinese) New Year. And that is when your head starts to hurt. It hurts even more when you try to figure out how to algebraically parse things to make a javascript Korean Age Calculator, but that is what I’ve done. So here it is – put in the relevant information and it will convert your age to Korean years, according to both the Solar and Lunar (Seollal) calendars. Have fun.

Korean age calculator

Enter your current age:
Have already had your birthday this year?

Have you had a birthday since the last Lunar New Year (early February-ish)?

Your age in Korea (Solar calendar): 

Your age in Korea (Lunar calendar):


How to calculate your Korean age (and how this works)

Having spent a good hour and a half thinking about how to calculate your Korean age to make this thing, I can now tell you the easy way to work out your Korean age, which is also how the calculator works.

As you are 1 year old when you are born, and as a new year will inevitably come around before your first birthday, it is impossible to ever catch up to your Korean age. However once a year, on your birthday, you get temporarily closer by one year. So, to put it simply – in a given year, before your birthday, your Korean age is your Western age plus two; after your birthday, it is your Western age plus one.

To calculate your age by the lunar calendar is only slightly more complex; we just need to change “the start of the year” to “the start of the lunar year”. So, go back to the last Lunar New Year and repeat the process. Add two before your birthday, and one afterwards.


As to whether to use the lunar or solar new year, from everything I’ve read and everyone I’ve asked, it’s a matter of personal preference. For most people, it only makes a difference for one month of the year or so – the period between January 1 and the start of the lunar new year. However if you have a January or early February birthday, it makes a difference for the rest of the year. Want to appear mature to the handsome oppa? Go for the higher number. Mourning your lost youth and despairing over the swiftness of time’s passing? You know what to do. Although truthfully in that situation your best bet is to play dumb about the whole Korean age thing. It invariably makes you feel old.

Waegukin wrote these 505 words on August 13th, 2012 | Posted in Culture |


64 comments on “Korean age calculator”

  1. Gina says:

    This is totally messed up… Okay I give you credit for the fact that this is an interesting topic but those of us who are already old enough and don’t welcome age calculators magically adding TWO YEARS to our age are grumbling unhappily right now. :/ (kidding… 😛 grumble grumble… not really)

    I’ve always been curious, though, because I was born in Korea in the mid-70’s and have been promised by my mom that the birthday that I have always understood to be mine was based on the Gregorian calendar. But knowing how focused they are in Korea on the lunar calendar (even now), I’m never quite sure. Is there any way to find out? Did they start using Gregorian dates for official birth records at some specific point in Korea?

  2. Isel says:

    I was Born on November 14 1994 i am only 20 I am only 21 years old in Korea. The Korean age system is using in North and South Korea for calculating the age in the western age plus they will add one year or sometimes two years in during Chinese Lunar New Year

  3. Martyn says:

    I’ve lived in Korea for almost eight years and have a nightmare trying to explain this to people.
    Basically if you are born on 31st December, you are one day old, but also one year old. The next day, despite being only two days old, you become two years old (Korean age).
    When I turned thirty, I introduce myself to Koreans, I just tell them the year I was born and trust that they have sufficient math skills to figure it out for themselves wether to call me ‘hyung’ or not.

  4. Sarah says:

    So in Korea, do they celebrate birth dates, but they only get older on New Year’s (to them)?

  5. tigerb says:

    i’ll stick to my solar age after all my passport reflects the year i was born. i wonder if korean age computation is the same as chinese way of computing age.

  6. Kelly says:

    So does that mean the k-pop idols are younger when they come to the U.S.? How do you convert someone’s age back? Say they are 23 in Korea is there age going to change if they move to the U.S.?

  7. user says:

    I felt old

  8. Fei \ ^o^ / says:

    So does this mean that people start school earlier in Korea or are people older in grades? Ex. instead of being 13 in 8th grade you could be 15??

  9. aaa says:

    I’m Korean-American but korean age system is just for conversation. Legal age is original age like any other country.

  10. Poniko says:

    but if I went to korea would they take the age on my passport or would they calculate my korean age?? what if you’re 20 in western age but 21 in korean age???? are you allowed to drink then?? It’s so confusing

  11. SUNSHINE says:


  12. Crumbs says:

    Well that would explain my premature grey hairs…… I can’t believe I’m 30 in Korean years….. Now I just feel old……..

  13. Grace says:

    Am glad I got to understand a little about the Korean age. Thank you.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Just stick with ur western age….let the koreans do the math once u visit their country.

  15. Kylee Guerra says:

    I’d already be auditioning for The Voice if all age systems worked this way lol. (I want to audition when I’m old enough)

  16. Seanigail says:

    So just now I learnt that’s why when you are a Korean sometimes they are always looking young by their age. It is because they were younger 1or2 years from their age in Korea. They are young by face and a year old by their age.

  17. I Love BTS says:

    Btw, on YT (On a BTS run ep,) someone was confused because a member’s, Jungkook, age was 22 in the subs when he is 21. Here is what someone replied when someone explained the orean age sustem:

    “He turning 21 this yr..Haiizzzt I don’t like their way of counting of age how come u become 1 yr old when u are born u don’t even see the world yet u don’t know anything.”

    Is there any reason or is it just a cultural thing so I can help this person? thx.

  18. AnitaSleap says:

    This might seem a bit dumb, but when I became a fan of BTS, I thought I was older than all of the members. But the oldest of the group (born about a week after me) was often stated to be one or two years older than me. I thought I was reading things wrong or the translations in interviews were wrong. But I find it fascinating to know it is a cultural thing.

  19. Jason says:

    This does not explain everything about Korean age. It does not say why you start 1 year old when you are born so that people think the Korean age is a bit dumb. The reason why you are 1 year old when you are born is that Korean think you are a living thing when you are even in the womb.

  20. Akeno says:

    At first I didn’t understand why your 1 year older but now I kinda understand it. The reason why they go an extra year is because when you count the 9 months your in your mother stomach they count that as a year instead of how other places do it. They say you’ve been alive for 9 months already. At first I didn’t get it but now I kinda do. I don’t know if I like it or not cause in New Zealand I’m 15 but in Korea I’m considered 16 or 17 (depends on the solar and lunar calender). I don’t know if I like being a year or 2 over….It makes me feel kinda old….

  21. Michael says:

    In England horses [well, racehorses at least] are counted as 1-year-olds when born, and their ages all go up by one at the start of the solar year.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Why can’t determining someone’s age and shoe sizing just be freakin universal? Why the hell do we complicate everything??!!!!

  23. María Teresa says:

    Ok, it might be a cultural thing, and I respect then, but the correct age is the biological age. You are not one year old when you are born, you are just a new born, and will turn one year old after 12 months. Considering koreans think you are a fully human being while still in the womb, abortion must be a serious issue there. As far as I know it is forbideen in most cases.

  24. cly says:

    That’s why when they asked for people’s age, they usually go “what year were you born? Instead of “how old are you?”

    But one thing confuse me though;

    On produce 101 when the contestants asked their ages, they were both born on the same year but one said she was born on “b/pareun” then the other started calling her “unnie”. I took it that being on “b/pareun” age made her older.

    But on a skit on SBS heroes Park Jiyeon said she was 7 years old, but Lee Hwi Jae said she is supposed to be 8, and Jiyeon said it was because she was on her “pareun” age. So pareun age made her younger.

    Of course this is all based on my understanding of the subtitle. Is pareun the age base on the Lunar age, discussed here?

  25. STAY IN SKOOL says:

    Ok….so does the korean age system only count for the peaople who were born there or can someone come there and automatically be 1 or 2 yrs older than what they already are?

  26. Stephanie says:

    I love how I become older.

    I’m 14 in America but if I were Korean I’d be 16 years old.

    The culture is fascinating and I had no idea that this is how their ages worked.

  27. Kawaii_Unnie says:

    ummmmmm…. i think I get it….. wait….*reads everything again* actually no….


    Weirdd….. lol loads of kpop references soz I will stop now….

  28. COnfusin says:

    Wait so what I got was when you are born you are already 1 (same in Vietnam I heard) then every New Years you turn a year older? What about your real birthday? Does it substitute?

  29. Zman says:

    Is everybody here a damn teen? Lol

  30. esme says:

    im confused why your age goes down between your birthday and the new year???

  31. getback in thewomb says:

    I am 9, but in Korea i’m 80 wow

  32. EjRedila says:

    I’m 16 years old here in the Philippines, but if I go to Korea, I’m considered as 18 years old. Woahhhh, I think I’m a little bit old.

  33. MiKyong says:

    My little brother was born on New Year’s Eve. (I’m three years older.) A few weeks later was Lunar New Year. All of my parents’ friends kept talking about how he was two, but no one would properly explain it to me, other than he was a Korean Two.

    “But how can he be two, he JUST came home, and I’m three.”

    “Well, no, you’re five.”

    I never learned about the “why” behind the Korean age until I was an American 14 (a Korean 15). I saw it on TV.

  34. julia says:

    in Poland people also mostly ask about the year of birth rather than the exact age

  35. Tsukune-senpai says:

    Last time I checked we had a pulse in the womb, hence a full living human being. This makes plenty of sense. Even PSY explained it in an interview. I’m 35, in Korea I’m 37, my birthday is in October so when I turn 36 I’ll still be 37 in Korea. I don’t get the confusion and I’m a Westerner.

  36. TF says:

    I’ve been working in Korea since 2010. I find Korean age funny because it’s like a religious thing. The Korean government and the Korean medical community don’t recognize it, so it’s a thing based on an ideology and nothing else.

    I just tell people my International age. This way I’m not confused and people can believe I’m younger. 🙂

  37. Anonymous says:

    pues soy del 97 tengo 21 sehun ahí dice que tengo 23 aya que vieja estoy

  38. Eva says:

    As I was born on January First….Would I be 2 years old being a new born, in Korea?

  39. Cherise says:

    Oooohhhh this is wierd i dont quite understand it but then again ive never really understood much on the mathematical side of things but it scares me slightly how in korean age i would be 18 and im only 16

  40. Dan says:

    The point is who the eff knows.

    The date on your birth records or hospital records could be on the lunar calendar or maybe the western calendar, depending on how they felt that day. So celebrate whatever day you feel like! All I know is my kimchee/garlic eating keeps me looking young!

  41. Salo says:

    I have tried to explain this to so many people but they just dont want listen…
    Western age is “how many years have transpired since your birth ”
    Koreans count age much the same way normal people count dates; you will never see a year 0 bc or 0 ad. The year starts at 1.
    When you ask how many days you did something are travelled somewhere you start with day 1. If you arrive at a new city you will say its my first day and then its my second day the day after. You dont count intervals of 24 hrs. All that bs about counting time in the womb is just ignorance trying to explain something they dont want to accept they know nothing about.

  42. Rey says:

    Thanks for the info. Although my head hurt of understanding it.. so my now is 19 or 21? Born August.

  43. Trisha says:

    I am 29 in international age but the Korean age is 30 because it similar the age in the Philippines

  44. Anonymous says:

    I felt old with korean age.


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