Learning Center
Plans & pricing Sign in
Sign Out

09 Koreanname


									Korean name
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A Korean name consists of a family name followed by a given name, as used by the
Korean people in both North Korea and South Korea. In the Korean language, „ireum‟
or „seong-myeong‟ usually refers to the family name (seong) and given name (ireum
in a narrow sense) together. A long history of the use of family names has caused
surname extinction. There are only about 250 Korean family names currently in use,
and the three most common (Kim, Lee, and Park) account for nearly half of the

The family name is typically a single syllable, and the given name (in most cases) two
syllables. There is no middle name in the Western sense. Many Koreans have their
given names made of a generational name syllable and an individually distinct
syllable, while this practice is declining in the younger generations. The generational
name syllable is shared by siblings in North Korea, and by all members of the same
generation of an extended family in South Korea. Married men and women usually
keep their full personal names, and children inherit the father‟s family name.

Modern family names are subdivided into bon-gwan (clans), i.e. extended families
which originate in the lineage system used in previous historical periods. Each clan is
identified by a specific place, and traces its origin to a common patrilineal ancestor.

Early names based on the Korean language were recorded in the Three Kingdoms
period (57 BCE – 668 CE), but with the growing adoption of Chinese writing system,
these were gradually replaced by names based on Chinese characters. During periods
of Mongol influence, the ruling class supplemented their Korean names with
Mongolian names. In addition, during the later period of Japanese rule in the early
20th century, Koreans were forced to adopt Japanese names. In recent decades, there
has been a trend towards using native Korean words as names, although still a small

Because of the many changes in Korean romanization practices over the years,
modern Koreans, when using European languages, romanize their names in various
ways, most often approximating the pronunciation in English orthography. Some
keep the original order of names, while others reverse the names to match the usual
Western pattern.
45% of Korean people bear the family name Kim, Lee, or Park   Kim, Gim   Lee, Yi,
Rhee      Park, Pak   Choi   Jung, Jeong, Chung, Cheong



        1 Family names
        2 Given names
        3 Usage
            o 3.1 Forms of address
            o 3.2 Traditional nicknames
        4 History
            o 4.1 Native names
            o 4.2 Confucian naming system
            o 4.3 Mongolian names
            o 4.4 Japanese names
        5 Romanization and pronunciation
        6 References
            o 6.1 Notes
            o 6.2 Further reading
        7 See also
        8 External links

Family names

  The five most common family names[1]

  Hangul Hanja Revised MR Common

  김        金       Gim        Kim     Kim

                                     Lee, Yi,
  리 (N)            Ri (N)     Ri (N)
           李                         Rhie,
  이 (S)            I (S)      Yi (S)
                                     Reeh, Yie,

  박        朴       Bak        Pak     Park, Pak

           鄭                          Chung,
  정                Jeong      Chŏng
           丁                          Jung

  최        崔       Choe       Ch‟oe Choi

Both the top and bottom lines depict the Korean name Hong Gil-dong, which is a
common anonymous name like John Doe. The top line is written as the hangul
version (Korean characters), and the bottom as the hanja version (Chinese
characters). In both instances the family name Hong is in yellow.

There are roughly 250 family names in use today.[2] Each family name is divided into
one or more clans (bon-gwan), identifying the clan‟s city of origin. For example, the
most populous clan is Gimhae Kim; that is, the Kim clan from the city of Gimhae.
Clans are further subdivided into various pa, or branches stemming from a more
recent common ancestor, so that a full identification of a persons family name would
be clan-surname-branch.

Korean women traditionally keep their family name after marriage, but their children
take the father‟s name. According to tradition, each clan publishes a comprehensive
genealogy (jokbo) every 30 years.[3]

There are around a dozen two-syllable surnames, all of which rank after the 100 most
common surnames. The five most common family names, which together make up
over half of the Korean population, are used by over 20 million people in South

Given names
Traditionally, given names for males are partly determined by generation names, a
custom originating in China. One of the two characters in a given name is unique to
the individual, while the other is shared by all people in a family generation.
Therefore, it is common for cousins to have the same character (dollimja) in their
given names in the same fixed position. In North Korea, generational names are no
longer shared across families, but are still commonly shared by brothers and

Given names are typically composed of hanja, or Chinese characters. In North Korea,
the hanja are no longer used to write the names, but the meanings are still
understood; thus, for example, the syllable cheol (철, 鐵) is used in boy‟s names with
the meaning of “iron”. In South Korea, section 37 of the Family Registry Law requires
that the hanja in personal names be taken from a restricted list.[5] Unapproved hanja
must be represented by hangul, or Korean characters, in the family registry. In March
1991, the Supreme Court of South Korea published the Table of Hanja for Personal
Name Use which allowed a total of 2,854 hanja in new South Korean given names (as
well as 61 alternate forms).[6] The list was expanded in 1994, 1997, 2001, and 2005.
Thus there are now 5,038 hanja permitted in South Korean names, in addition to a
small number of alternate forms.

While the traditional practice is still largely followed, since the late 1970s, some
parents have given their children names that are native Korean words, usually of two
syllables. This has been largely restricted to girl‟s names. Popular native Korean given
names of this sort include Haneul (하늘; “Heaven” or “Sky”), Areum (아름; “Beauty”),
Gippeum (기쁨; “Joy”) and Iseul (이슬; “Dew”). Despite this trend away from
traditional practice, people‟s names are still recorded in both hangul and hanja (if
available) on official documents, in family genealogies, and so on.


Forms of address

See also: Korean honorifics

The usage of names is governed by strict norms in traditional Korean society. It is
generally considered rude to address anyone by their given name in Korean culture.
This is particularly the case when dealing with adults or one‟s elders.[7] This is often a
source of pragmatic difficulty for learners of Korean as a foreign language, and for
Korean learners of Western languages.

A variety of replacements are used for the actual name of the person. It is acceptable
among adults of similar status to address the other by their full name, with the suffix
ssi (氏, 씨) added. However, it is inappropriate to address someone by their surname
alone, even with such a suffix.[8] Whenever the person has an official rank, it is typical
to address him or her by the name of that rank (such as “Manager”), often with the
honorific nim (님) added. In such cases, the full name of the person may be appended,
although this can also imply that the speaker is of higher status.[8]

Among children and close friends, it is common to use a person‟s birth name.

Traditional nicknames

Among the common people, who and have suffered from high child mortality,
children were often given amyeong (childhood name), to wish them long lives by
avoiding notice from the messenger of death.[9] These sometimes-insulting
nicknames, are used sparingly for children today.[10]

Upon marriage, women usually lost their amyeong, and were called by a taekho,
referring to their town of origin.[9]

In addition, teknonymy, or referring to parents by their children‟s names, is a
common practice. It is most commonly used in referring to a mother by the name of
her eldest son, as in “Cheolsu‟s mom” (철수 엄마). However, it can be extended to
either parent and any child, depending upon the context.[11]


The use of names has evolved over time, from the first recording of Korean names in
the early Three Kingdoms period through the gradual adoption of Chinese forms of
naming as centralized kingdoms came to dominate Korean life. A complex system,
including courtesy names and pen names as well as posthumous names and
childhood names, arose out of Confucian tradition. The courtesy name system in
particular arose from the Classic of Rites, a core text of the Confucian canon.[12]

Native names

During the Three Kingdoms period, native given names were sometimes composed of
three syllables like Misaheun (미사흔) and Sadaham (사다함), which were later
transcribed into hanja (未斯欣, 斯多含). The use of family names was limited to kings
in the beginning, but gradually spread to aristocrats and eventually to most of the

Some recorded family names are apparently native Korean words, such as toponyms.
At that time, some characters of Korean names might have been read not by their
Sino-Korean pronunciation but by their native reading (see hanja). For example, the
native Korean name of Yeon Gaesomun (연개소문; 淵蓋蘇文), the first Grand Prime
Minister of Goguryeo, can linguistically be reconstructed as “Eol Kasum”
(/*älkasum/).[14] Early Silla names are also believed to represent Old Korean
vocabulary; for example, Bak Hyeokgeose, the name of the founder of Silla, was
pronounced something like “Bulgeonuri” (弗矩內), which can be translated as “bright

Confucian naming system

According to the chronicle Samguk Sagi, family names were bestowed by kings upon
their supporters. For example, in 33 CE, King Yuri gave the six headmen of Saro
(later Silla) the names Lee (이), Bae (배), Choe (최), Jeong (정), Son (손) and Seol (설).
However, this account is not generally credited by modern historians, who hold that
Confucian-style surnames as above were more likely to have come into general use in
the 5th and subsequent centuries, as the Three Kingdoms increasingly adopted the
Chinese model.[16]

Only a handful of figures from the Three Kingdoms period are recorded as having
borne a courtesy name, such as Seol Chong. The custom only became widespread in
the Goryeo period, as Confucianism took hold among the literati.[17] In 1055, Goryeo
established a new law limiting access to the civil service exam to those with family

For men of yangban rank, a complex system of alternate names had developed by the
Joseon Dynasty. Peasants sometimes had only amyong throughout their lives.[9]
According to a census taken in 1910, at the end of the Joseon Dynasty and the
beginning of Japanese rule, a little more than half of the population did not have
family names.[9]

Mongolian names

For a brief period after the Mongol invasion of Korea during the Goryeo Dynasty,
Korean kings and aristocrats had both Mongolian and Sino-Korean names. The
scions of the ruling class were sent to the Yuan court for schooling.[18] For example,
King Gongmin had both the Mongolian name Bayan Temür (伯顏帖木兒) and the
Sino-Korean name Wang Gi (王祺) (later renamed Wang Jeon (王顓)).[19]

Japanese names

Main article: Sōshi-kaimei

During the period of Japanese colonial rule of Korea (1910–1945), Koreans were
compelled to adopt Japanese-language names.[20]

In 1939, as part of Governor-General Jiro Minami„s policy of cultural assimilation (同
化政策; dōka seisaku), Ordinance No. 20 (commonly called the “Name Order”, or
Sōshi-kaimei (創氏改名) in Japanese) was issued, and became law in April 1940.[21]
Although the Japanese Governor-General officially prohibited compulsion, low-level
officials effectively forced Koreans to adopt Japanese-style family and given names.
By 1944, approximately 84 percent of the population had registered Japanese family

Sōshi (Japanese) means the creation of a Japanese family name (shi, Korean ssi),
distinct from a Korean family name or seong (Japanese sei). Japanese family names
represent the families they belong to and can be changed by marriage and other
procedures, while Korean family names represent paternal linkages and are
unchangeable. Japanese policy dictated that Koreans either could register a
completely new Japanese family name unrelated to their Korean surname, or have
their Korean family name, in Japanese form, automatically become their Japanese
name if no surname was submitted before the deadline.[22]

After the liberation of Korea from Japanese rule, the Name Restoration Order (조선
성명 복구령; 朝鮮姓名復舊令) was issued on October 23, 1946 by the United States
military administration south of the 38th parallel north, enabling Koreans to restore
their Korean names if they wished to.

Japanese conventions of creating given names, such as using “子” (Japanese ko and
Korean ja) in feminine names, is seldom seen in present-day Korea, either North or
South. In the North, a campaign to eradicate such Japanese-based names was
launched in the 1970s.[4]

Romanization and pronunciation

In English speaking nations, the three most common family names are often written
and pronounced as “Kim” (김), “Lee” or “Rhee” (이, 리), and “Park” (박). Despite
official Korean romanization systems used for geographic and other names in North
and South Korea, personal names are generally romanized according to personal
preference. Thus a family name such as “Lee” may also be found spelled “I”, “Yi”,
“Rhee”, and “Rhie”.[23]

The initial sound in “Kim” shares features with both the English „k‟ (in initial position,
an aspirated voiceless velar stop) and “hard g” (an unaspirated voiced velar stop).
When pronounced initially, Kim starts with an unaspirated voiceless velar stop sound;
it is voiceless like /k/, but also unaspirated like /ɡ /. As aspiration is a distinctive
feature in Korean but voicing is not, “Gim” is more likely to be understood correctly.
“Kim” is used nearly universally in both North and South Korea.[24]

The family name “Lee” is pronounced as 리 (ri) in North Korea and as 이 (i) in
South Korea. In the former case, the initial sound is an alveolar liquid. There is no
distinction between the alveolar liquids /l/ and /r/, which is why “Lee” and “Rhee”
are both common spellings. In South Korea, the pronunciation of the name is simply
the English vowel sound for a “long e”, as in see. This pronunciation is also often
spelled as “Yi”; the Northern pronunciation is commonly romanized “Ri”.[25]

In Korean pronunciation, the name usually romanized as “Park” actually has no „r‟
sound at all. Its initial sound is an unaspirated voiceless bilabial stop, like a cross
between English „p‟ and „b‟. The vowel is the IPA sound [a], similar to the „a‟ in father.
For this reason, the name is also often represented as “Pak” or “Bak”.[26]



   1. Republic of Korea. National Statistical Office. The total population was
       45,985,289. No comparable statistics are available from North Korea. The top
       22 surnames are charted, and a rough extrapolation for both Koreas has been
       calculated [1].
   2. U.S. Library of Congress, Traditional Family Life.
   3. Nahm, pg.33–34.
   5. South Korea, Family Register Law
   6. National Academy of the Korean Language (1991)
   7. The Northern Forum (2006), p.29.
   8. Ri 2005, p.182.
   9. Daum 백과사전 : 이름
   10. Naver Encyclopedia, Nickname (별명, 別名).
   11. Hwang (1991), p.9.
   12. Lee, Hong-jik (1983), p.1134.
   13. Do (1999), sec. 2.
   14. Chang, Sekyung, Phonetic and phonological study on the different
       transcriptions of the Same personal names, Seoul: Dongguk University (1990).
   15. Do (1999), sec. 3.
   16. Do (1999).
   17. Naver Encyclopedia, 자 [字]. Seol Chong‟s courtesy name, Chongji (총지) is
       reported in the Samguk Sagi, Yeoljeon 6, “Seol Chong”.
   18. Lee (1984), p.156.
   19. Lee, Hong-jik (1983), p.117.
   20. U.S. Library of Congress, Korea Under Japanese Rule.
   21. Nahm (1996), p.223. See also Empas, “창씨개명”.
   22. Empas, “창씨개명”.
   23. Although the “I” romanization is uncommon, it does follow the strict Revised
       Romanization of Korean, and is used by Yonhap (2004) and others due to its
       clear representation of the underlying hangul.
  24. Yonhap (2004), 484–536 and 793–800, passim.
  25. Yonhap (2004), pp. 561–608 and 807–810, passim.
  26. Yonhap (2004), pp.438–457.

Further reading

     Hwang, Shin Ja J. (1991). “Terms of Address In Korean and American
      Cultures” (pdf). Intercultural Communication Studies I:2.
     Lee, Ki-baek (1984). A new history of Korea. Seoul: Ilchokak.
      ISBN 8933702040.
     Nahm, Andrew C. (1988). Korea: Tradition and Transformation — A History
      of the Korean People. Elizabeth, NJ: Hollym International. ISBN 0930878566.
     The Northern Forum (2006). “Protocol Manual”. Anchorage, AL: Retrieved
     U.S. Library of Congress (1990). “Korea Under Japanese Rule”. in Andrea
      Matles Savada & William Shaw. South Korea: A Country Study. GPO for the
      Library of Congress. Retrieved
     U.S. Library of Congress (1990). “Traditional Family Life”. in Andrea Matles
      Savada and William Shaw. South Korea: A Country Study. GPO for the
      Library of Congress. Retrieved
     Yonhap (2004). Korea Annual 2004. Seoul: Yonhap News Agency.
      ISBN 8974330709.
     (Korean) Do, Su-hui (도수희) (1999). “Formation and Development of
      Korean Names (한국 성명의 생성 발달 ,Hanguk seongmyeong-ui saengseong
      baldal)” (in Korean). New Korean Life (새국어생활). Retrieved
     (Korean) Empas Encyclopedia (n.d.). “Changssi Gaemyeong (창씨개명 , 創
      氏改名)” (in Korean). Retrieved
     (Korean) Lee, Hong-jik (이홍직), ed (1983). “Ja, Courtesy Name (자)”.
      Encyclopedia of Korean history (새國史事典, Sae guksa sajeon). Seoul:
      Kyohaksa. pp. 117, 1134. ISBN 8909005068.
     (Korean) National Academy of the Korean Language (1991). “News from the
      National Academy of Korean Language (국립 국어 연구원 소식)”.
      Retrieved 2006-08-23.
    (Korean) National Institute of the Korean Language (국립 국어 연구원)
     (1991-06). “National Institute of the Korean Language news (Gungnip gugeo
     yeonguwon saesosik, 국어 국립 연구원 새소식)” (in Korean). New Korean
     Retrieved 2006-08-11.
    (Korean) Naver Encyclopedia (n.d.). “Courtesy name (자 , 字)”. Retrieved 2006-08-22.
    (Korean) Naver Encyclopedia (n.d.). “Nickname (별명, 別名)”. Retrieved 2006-08-22.
    (Korean) NKChosun (2000-11-19). “Name creation/‟ja‟ disappearing from
     female names (이름짓기/ 여성 이름 „자‟字 사라져)” (in Korean).
     4. Retrieved 2006-08-13.
    (Korean) Republic of Korea (n.d.). “Family Register Law 양계혈통 관련법률”. Retrieved 2006-08-23.
    (Korean) Republic of Korea (n.d.). “National Statistical Office”.
     Retrieved 2006-08-23.
    (Korean) Ri, Ui-do (리의도) (2005) (in Korean). Proper Procedures for
     Korean Usage (올바른 우리말 사용법 , Olbareun urimal sayongbeop). Seoul:
     Yedam. ISBN 8959131180.

External links

    Korean surnames at Wiktionary
    Table of in 2001 added Hanja for Personal Name Use
    Choosing between Korean Hanja and Hangul Names
    Family Register Law, Act 6438, 호적법, 법률 6438 호, partially revised
     October 24, 2005. (Korean)
    Examples of Koreans who used Japanese names: by Saga Women‟s Junior
     College (Japanese)

To top