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What is Korean Age?

While it is a taboo to ask someone (especially women) their age in Western countries, one of the first things that native Koreans will ask you when you meet is your age. This is not due to lack of politeness–in fact, it is quite the opposite. Most of you learning Korean know that there are varied levels of politeness when conversing in Korean–and this is exactly why people will ask you your age—they want to know so that they can address you accordingly.

Korean Age Calculator

Enter Your Birth Year Below:

Your Korean age is ? years old.

However, when you give them your answer, you may see them nodding their head and stating a number that is higher than your actual age, or they may inform you that you are actually older in Korean age. Why is Korean age different? This is due to the different Korean age system, which is different from the international age. So if you see any K-Pop star saying their age in Korean, you should know their international age is different.

For example:

  • How old is Jungkook in Korea?
    • In Korean age: He’s 22 years old from January 1st until December 31st, 2018.
    • In international age: He’s 20 years old until August 30th and 21 years old after September 1st, which is his birthday.

You’ll learn more about how to work out Korean age in this article.
 

Korean Age Cheat Sheets 2018

If you meet Koreans for the first time, they’ll ask your name and your age first.
Being able to talk about your age in Korean is very important in Korean culture.

This 10-page eBook is a MUST-HAVE for all Korean learning beginners!

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How can you download? First, log in to KoreanClass101. Then, simply click on the button below.
 

Download your FREE Korean age PDF today and learn to say your Korean age in no time!
This is a must-have guide for absolute beginners.

 

Related Lessons

Table of Contents

 

1. International Age vs Korean Age

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What is the Korean age system? What is the difference between Korean age and American age (International Age or Western Age)?

1) In Korea, you are born one (1) years of age.

While Westerners consider newborn babies to be ‘zero’ years old upon birth, native Koreans actually calculate the time babies spend in their mother’s womb as a ‘year’ (although, technically, it is 10 months, they round it up to one year), so when babies are born in Korea, they are considered to be 한 살(han sal)=”one year old”. This automatically adds one year to the age that you may be used to. So when someone in Korea tells you, for example, that they are 스무 살(seumu sal)=“twenty years old”, they may actually be 열여덟 살(yeol yeodeol sal)=”18 years old” or 열아홉 살(yeolahop sal)=”19 years old”.

2) In Korea, you increase your age count on January 1st of every year, not on your birthday.

Now, why would a native Korean add two years to their ‘Western age,’ you may wonder. This is because Koreans automatically gain a year on January 1st, regardless of whether their birthday has passed or not.

  • International Age measures how long you have lived.
  • Korean Age measures how many years you have experienced.

For example, let’s say a child was born on December 31st, 2010. This child is already a year old, but only two days later, although the child is only three days old, he/she will already be two years old in Korean age, because everyone gains a year when the new year begins. So their actual age in international standards, or 만 나이(man nai), would technically be ‘zero’ years old, but when the parents are asked about the age of their child, they will probably answer, “한국 나이로 두 살이에요.”(hanguk nairo du sarieyo)=”My child is two years old in Korean age.”

One thing to keep in mind is that 만(man) is a Sino Korean word which does not come from the Chinese character ‘萬’, which means “ten thousand”, but from ‘滿’, which means “full” and it’s the same as the international age.

Another thing to keep in mind is that Korean age culture, however, is only a cultural thing–in order to avoid confusion and keep up with international standards, on official documents such as a passport or a birth certificate, everyone in Korea will use their 만 나이(man nai), or international age. This means that when you see the age of Korean sports stars at the PyeongChang Olympics, it will be their international age, not their Korean age concept.

 

2. How to Calculate Korean Age

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How to Calculate Korean Age
 

What is my Korean age? How can I calculate my Korean age? Have you ever wondered? Calculating your Korean age is not very difficult! Here are 3 different but easy ways.

First, all you need to do is add 1 to the current year, then subtract the year of your birth, and you will get your Korean age.

Example:

If you were born in 1980 and wanted to calculate your age in 2018:
2018 + 1 - 1980 = 39 (Korean Age)

Second, if you’re not good at calculating, you can just follow this:

  • If your birthday has passed: Your Age + 1 = Korean Age
  • If your birthday hasn’t passed yet: Your Age + 2 = Korean Age

Third, use our Korean age converter. This is the easiest way. Just enter your birth year and it’ll calculate your Korean age. Click here to get get your Korean age calculator.

 

3. How to Say Your Age in Korean (Updated in 2018)

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How to Say Your Korean Age
 

If Koreans want to know your ask, they probably use one of these following questions. They all mean ‘How old are you?’.

  • Informal: 몇 살이야? (meot sariya?)
  • Polite: 나이가 어떻게 돼요? (naiga eotteoke doeyo?)
  • Formal: 연세가 어떻게 되세요? (yeonsega eotteoke doeseyo?)

How old am I in South Korea? Have you wondered how old you are in Korea? Do you want to count your age in Korean?

  • Informal: ___이야. (___ iya.)
  • Polite: ___이에요. (___ ieyo.)
  • Formal: ___입니다. (___ imnida.)

Just find your age below and fill out the blank above. The above lines just mean ‘to be’. 살 (sal) below is a counter and it is used when you’re counting the ages of people or animals. You can download the following list here.

Birth Year Age Korean Romanization
2018 1 year old 한 살 han sal
2017 2 years old 두 살 du sal
2016 3 years old 세 살 se sal
2015 4 years old 네 살 ne sal
2014 5 years old 다섯 살 da-seot sal
2013 6 years old 여섯 살 yeo-seot sal
2012 7 years old 일곱 살 il-gop sal
2011 8 years old 여덟 살 yeo-dul sal
2010 9 years old 아홉 살 a-hop sal
2009 10 years old 열 살 yeol sal
2008 11 years old 열한 살 yeol-han sal
2007 12 years old 열두 살 yeol-du sal
2006 13 years old 열세 살 yeol-se sal
2005 14 years old 열네 살 yeol-ne sal
2004 15 years old 열다섯 살 yeol-da-seot sal
2003 16 years old 열여섯 살 yeol-yeo-seot sal
2002 17 years old 열일곱 살 yeol-il-gop sal
2001 18 years old 열여덟 살 yeol-yeo-dul sal
2000 19 years old 열아홉 살 yeol-a-hop sal
1999 20 years old 스무 살 seu-mu sal
1998 21 years old 스물한 살 seu-mul-han sal
1997 22 years old 스물두 살 seu-mul-du sal
1996 23 years old 스물세 살 seu-mul-se sal
1995 24 years old 스물네 살 seu-mul-ne sal
1994 25 years old 스물다섯 살 seu-mul-da-seot sal
1993 26 years old 스물여섯 살 seu-mul-yeo-seot sal
1992 27 years old 스물일곱 살 seu-mul-il-gop sal
1991 28 years old 스물여덟 살 seu-mul-yeo-dul sal
1990 29 years old 스물아홉 살 seu-mul-a-hop sal
1989 30 years old 서른 살 seo-reun sal
1988 31 years old 서른한 살 seo-reun-han sal
1987 32 years old 서른두 살 seo-reun-du sal
1986 33 years old 서른세 살 seo-reun-se sal
1985 34 years old 서른네 살 seo-reun-ne sal
1984 35 years old 서른다섯 살 seo-reun-da-seot sal
1983 36 years old 서른여섯 살 seo-reun-yeo-seot sal
1982 37 years old 서른일곱 살 seo-reun-il-gop sal
1981 38 years old 서른여덟 살 seo-reun-yeo-dul sal
1980 39 years old 서른아홉 살 seo-reun-a-hop sal
1979 40 years old 마흔 살 ma-heun sal
1978 41 years old 마흔한 살 ma-heun-han sal
1977 42 years old 마흔두 살 ma-heun-du sal
1976 43 years old 마흔세 살 ma-heun-se sal
1975 44 years old 마흔네 살 ma-heun-ne sal
1974 45 years old 마흔다섯 살 ma-heun-da-seot sal
1973 46 years old 마흔여섯 살 ma-heun-yeo-seot sal
1972 47 years old 마흔일곱 살 ma-heun-il-gop sal
1971 48 years old 마흔여덟 살 ma-heun-yeo-dul sal
1970 49 years old 마흔아홉 살 ma-heun-a-hop sal
1969 50 years old 쉰 살 swin sal
1968 51 years old 쉰한 살 swin-han sal
1967 52 years old 쉰두 살 swin-du sal
1966 53 years old 쉰세 살 swin-se sal
1965 54 years old 쉰네 살 swin-ne sal
1964 55 years old 쉰다섯 살 swin-da-seot sal
1963 56 years old 쉰여섯 살 swin-yeo-seot sal
1962 57 years old 쉰일곱 살 swin-il-gop sal
1961 58 years old 쉰여덟 살 swin-yeo-dul sal
1960 59 years old 쉰아홉 살 swin-a-hop sal
1959 60 years old 예순 살 ye-sun sal
1958 61 years old 예순한 살 ye-sun-han sal
1957 62 years old 예순두 살 ye-sun-du sal
1956 63 years old 예순세 살 ye-sun-se sal
1955 64 years old 예순네 살 ye-sun-ne sal
1954 65 years old 예순다섯 살 ye-sun-da-seot sal
1953 66 years old 예순여섯 살 ye-sun-yeo-seot sal
1952 67 years old 예순일곱 살 ye-sun-il-gop sal
1951 68 years old 예순여덟 살 ye-sun-yeo-dul sal
1950 69 years old 예순아홉 살 ye-sun-a-hop sal
1949 70 years old 일흔 살 il-heun sal
1948 71 years old 일흔한 살 il-heun-han sal
1947 72 years old 일흔두 살 il-heun-du sal
1946 73 years old 일흔세 살 il-heun-se sal
1945 74 years old 일흔네 살 il-heun-ne sal
1944 75 years old 일흔다섯 살 il-heun-da-seot sal
1943 76 years old 일흔여섯 살 il-heun-yeo-seot sal
1942 77 years old 일흔일곱 살 il-heun-il-gop sal
1941 78 years old 일흔여덟 살 il-heun-yeo-dul sal
1940 79 years old 일흔아홉 살 il-heun-a-hop sal
1939 80 years old 여든 살 yeo-deun sal
1938 81 years old 여든한 살 yeo-deun-han sal
1937 82 years old 여든두 살 yeo-deun-du sal
1936 83 years old 여든세 살 yeo-deun-se sal
1935 84 years old 여든네 살 yeo-deun-ne sal
1934 85 years old 여든다섯 살 yeo-deun-da-seot sal
1933 86 years old 여든여섯 살 yeo-deun-yeo-seot sal
1932 87 years old 여든일곱 살 yeo-deun-il-gop sal
1931 88 years old 여든여덟 살 yeo-deun-yeo-dul sal
1930 89 years old 여든아홉 살 yeo-deun-a-hop sal
1929 90 years old 아흔 살 a-heun sal
1928 91 years old 아흔한 살 a-heun-han sal
1927 92 years old 아흔두 살 a-heun-du sal
1926 93 years old 아흔세 살 a-heun-se sal
1925 94 years old 아흔네 살 a-heun-ne sal
1924 95 years old 아흔다섯 살 a-heun-da-seot sal
1923 96 years old 아흔여섯 살 a-heun-yeo-seot sal
1922 97 years old 아흔일곱 살 a-heun-il-gop sal
1921 98 years old 아흔여덟 살 a-heun-yeo-dul sal
1920 99 years old 아흔아홉 살 a-heun-a-hop sal
1919 100 years old 백 살 baek sal

 

4. Why Do Korean People Always Ask Age?

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Why Do Korean People Always Ask Age?
 

Why do many Korean people ask your age when you meet them for the first time? How does age work in Korea?

실례지만 나이가 어떻게 되세요?
Sillyejiman naiga eotteoke doeseyo?
Excuse me, but how old are you?

It’s because they want to know which politeness level of the speech they should use and age decides how you address each other.

Why are there so many non-related 오빠(oppa)s=”older brother” and 누나(nuna)s=”older sister” in Korea?

Unlike in Western cultures where you use the same level of politeness regardless of age, in Korea there are various levels of politeness. This is one of the reasons why age asking is so important to native Koreans–they need to find out the age so that they can figure out how to address one another.

If you are 동갑(donggap)=”the same age”, you will likely find yourself forming a fast friendship–as can be seen in the way Koreans count their age, people who are born in the same year are all considered to be the same age.

If you look at the hit Korean movie 동갑내기 과외하기(donggapnaegi gwawehagi)=”private tutoring someone the same age”, the heroine, who is a freshman at college, starts private tutoring the hero, who is a senior in high school but born in the same year as her. This makes their situation tricky, as they are 동갑(donggap), but she is his teacher.

Usually, you will find that your classmates are the same age as you–you are a part of the same age group with the same experiences-everyone goes to school together, and moves up in age together at the beginning of every year. It is a great ice breaker and you find yourself becoming close friends when you find out that you are the same age. This is why when you are introduced to someone else through a mutual friend, you will find native Koreans automatically checking each other’s age so that they can figure out whether they can start using informal speech, or 반말(banmal), right away.

Example:

  • A: 몇 년생이세요?
    • (myeot nyeonsaengiseyo?)
    • ”What year were you born?”
  • B: 2000년생이요.
    • (icheonnyeonsaengiyo.)
    • ”I was born in 2000.”
  • A: 저랑 동갑이시네요…괜찮다면 말 놓아도 될까요?
    • (jeorang donggabisineyo…gwenchanttamyeon mal noado dwelkkayo?)
    • ”You are the same age as me…if it is okay with you, shall we speak informally?”
  • B: 그럴까? 그럼 편하게 말 놔.
    • (geureulkkayo? geureom pyeonhage mal nwa.)
    • ”Shall we do that? Then address me informally.”

 

5. Citing Age

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Citing Age
 

You may have noticed in the dialogue above that ‘A’ asked ‘B’ how old they were by asking:

몇 년생이세요?
Myeot nyeonsaengiseyo?
What year were you born?

This is a common question asked by native Koreans when asking age, as they will likely figure out how old you are in Korean age by the year you were born. So instead of answering with your actual age, you could simply reply by giving your birth year as an answer—just let them know the year you were born, or you could just cite the last two numbers of the year you were born:

Example:

  • If you were born in 1990, you could say:
    • 1990년생입니다. (1990nyeonsaengimnida)=”I was born in the year 1990.”
    • 90년생입니다. (90nyeonsaengimnida)=”I was born in the year (19)90.”
빠른 __년생
Ppareun ___nyeonsaeng

Another age related expression that may throw you off is “빠른 년생 People.” We will describe why this phrase is used as it relates to the Korean education system. In Korea, the school year starts in March. This means the deadline to make it to a certain grade would be late February. ‘빠른 (ppareun) + insert year of birth’ refers to people that were born in either January or February, whose parents decided to let their children go to school with children born a year earlier.

Example:

If you were born in January, 1980, and went to school with classmates born in 1979, you would refer to yourself as 빠른 1980년생(ppareun cheongubaekpalsim-nyeonsaeng), or simply omit the first two numbers and say 빠른 80년생(ppareun palsim-nyeonsaeng). You can even say 빠른 80 (ppareun palgong). ‘Gong’ is another way to say 0 (zero) in Korean.

For example, say a child was born in February, 1999. The parents used to have two options–did they want their child to enter school as the youngest, or did they wait a year and let their child enter school as the oldest student? Depending on the decision that has been made, the child ended up going to school with friends who were born in 1998, or, those who were actually a year older than them. This means that other children born in 1999, who entered school a year later, had to refer to him/her as:

  • 오빠 (oppa) = older brother(addressed by a female)
  • 언니 (eonni) = older sister(addressed by a female)
  • 누나(nuna) = older brother(addressed by a male)
  • 형 (hyeong) = older sister(addressed by a male)

This system even confused native Korean people so it’s not been used since 2003. But those who entered elementary school before 2003 still see 빠른 년생 people. Just remember that these phrases are also used by native Koreans to refer to blood siblings, as well as non-related people who are senior to them.

Now if you ask someone their age and realize that they are younger than you, you can take the initiative and address them informally. However, in most cases, you will likely continue to use polite phrases until the recipient asks you to speak to them informally. And if you find out that someone is older than you, remember to use polite phrases and suffixes.

 

6. Related Lessons

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Introduction to Korean
 
Want to learn Korean? Don’t know where to start? This is it. The Introduction to Korean Video series is perfect for those who know zero Korean but want to take that first step. In this series, you’ll learn all about the Korean language, as well as grammar, writing and phrases to get you started.

 

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Korean in 3 Minutes
 
Learn the basics you need to be polite while speaking Korean. Amy will take you step-by-step through must-know phrases and explain the grammar and composition. Plus, you’ll get some special tips on how to be extra authentic when interacting with native Korean speakers.

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