Transitions and Time: Dissonance between Social and Political Aging in South Korea


  • Won Jee Cho University of Georgia
  • Denise Lewis



Korea, transition to elderhood, young-old, Hwan-Gap


This study explored multidimensional meanings related to “becoming old” for the young-old in South Korean society. Six persons aged 62 to 68 were interviewed in-depth. They chronologically, physically, and socially experienced the transition to old age at different times determined through “Hwan-Gap” (at age 60) and through current social policies that define entry into elderhood (at age 65). However, most did not psychologically accept their own aging as beginning at age 60 with “Hwan-Gap.” They reported that they were “forced” to become old at that time, even though they did not yet qualify for old age benefits provided by the South Korean government. In addition, they did not consider others’ perceptions of them as “old” as a psychological obstacle to defining themselves as young. Knowledge about young-old persons’ dissonance between their identities and sociopolitical views of entry into elderhood is important for understanding their experiences during the five-year gap between sociocultural entry into old age at age 60 and entry into the nationally defined elderhood at age 65.