Try calculating your age with Korean math.

Today’s newspaper lesson led to a cultural exchange on how we calculate age.

Our class is called Oxford after The Queen’s College at the elementary school camp where I’m teaching this month.
My students are writing for a newspaper they created called Oxford Adventures.

When filling out their reporter profiles today, Kate asked,
“What should I put for my age? My real age or my international age?”

kid reporter3

Kid Reporter profile from

Me: “This is a British paper, yes? Use your international age.”
Kate: “Teacher, what is my international age?”

Koreans have this peculiar practice of giving you a year when you’re born.
Also, in Korea (and in Vietnam), you gain your year on new year’s day. So, if you have a child in November, that child will be two years old in two months. Or to be extreme about it, if you have a baby on New Year’s Eve, that baby would be two years old in less than 24 hours.

As far as my friends know, Korea is the only country that gives you credit for time in the womb.

I thought we’d use Kate’s age as an example, then my other students would know how to calculate their international (EBK—everywhere but Korea) age. No. We ended up plotting every student’s birthdate on the board.


i had to make a chart.

For example, Kate: born January 21, 2001, is 11 compared to her 13 years of Korean age.
Perda (great names kids pick for themselves, eh?), who was born on Christmas Day in 2001, just turned 11 as opposed to her Korean age of 13.

“But teacher. That’s so WEIRD.”
“Really? Well, Westerners think it’s weird that you’re already a year old when you’re born.”

The conversation continued into lunch. I gave a green sticker to the first student who could tell me my co-teacher’s international age. (Jae was born in August 1986.)

Two students finally guessed 26.

“But Jae, what is your REAL age?!” asked Perda.
Perception is reality.


Jae and Perda

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