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In South Korea, abolishing the “two age” system and the gift of time

They are set to become a year younger as the government changes how it counts age. What would people do if they are given an extra year or two?

What would people do if they are given an extra year or two? For those looking forward to retirement, it may just mean more of a grind.
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Age is “just a number” only when you’re young. As time passes, and its unending ravages slowly chip away at the optimism and hope of years past, people realise that the world is built for the young. The smallest gesture or incident can remind a person that, almost immediately yet slowly and steadily, they have become “old”. Perhaps it’s the first time someone calls you “sir” or “ma’am” at the workplace, or when a young ‘un offers you his seat on public transport. Or when, during a landmark birthday — 40, 50, 60 — the realisation dawns that you are too old now for the dreams of your youth to come true. In South Korea, though, the correction of a bureaucratic oddity has given people one of the few things money can’t buy — time.

Until now, most South Koreans had two ages because the extant system counted newborns as being one year old, unlike much of the world. This caused an understandable confusion between “official” age and actual age and led to administrative complications. In fact, it was an issue important enough for now president Yoon Suk Yeol to make it one of his campaign promises. Now, his government claims that abolishing the “two age” system will make most South Koreans a year, even two years, younger.

What would people do if they are given an extra year or two? For those looking forward to retirement, it may just mean more of a grind. But equally, it could be a chance to check off a few items on the bucket list: Take a holiday, or a chance at a romantic interlude. But, then, since most people squander the gift of time anyway, perhaps an extra year won’t make a difference. It may be that they will just embrace the grumpiness and cynicism of experience and tell off the annoying kid on the metro who calls them “aunty” or “uncle”.

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First published on: 10-12-2022 at 06:30 IST
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