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02/06/2017 Special > Special

Title

Genealogy of Korean Surnames

Surnames of Korea

전채윤

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http://www.hanyang.ac.kr/surl/qjgD

Contents
A family tree of genealogy is a record of the totality of one’s ancestors from its originators to recent times by connecting numerous family units. It structures a family history where relations by blood and other factors are depicted in a systematic way, including personal details of family members. With a relatively high interest in family histories by the general public, Korea has the highest number of preserved genealogical records in the world. Being called 'jokbo', the genealogical table of Korea has been well preserved and stored by the Korean Ministry of Information and Communication to complete and smoothen the understanding and the holistic picture of its contents.
 
Genealogical record of the Yoo family.
(Photo courtesy of The Academy of Korean Studies)


History of genealogy

Reflecting Chinese influence of using its characters, Korean ancestors had adopted the use of Chinese letters for their family names since the Era of the Three Kingdoms. The very first family name of Korean history is recorded to be 'Go' (or 'Ko'), borne by the founder of the nation Goguryeo, Jumong. Conceivably, the king acquired his surname from the first letter of the country, all three letters in which were written in Chinese. Forerunners of history obtained their surnames in the identical manner, picking up a letter from words that has relevance to their lives or that holds personal meanings. For instance, the exceedingly dominant last name of Korea, Kim, came to its being through King Suro, who was said to be born in a golden egg—the Chinese character for Kim means gold.

As it was the initial stage of family-name-system endorsement, people without surnames surpassed those with one in number during the Era of the Three States. Each nation had its indigenous surnames, differing in its formation and origin. According to the method aforementioned, people very often derived their surnames from the location of their habitation: a man who lived in Kangsu will have Kang as his family name.


Genealogical database
     Ten of most common surnames in Korea.


Collecting the scattered genealogical records from all over the country and arranging it in a database system could benefit both the scholars and and the general Korean public. Academically, it will help strengthen the foundation of the Korean discipline and expand its horizon with the wealth of diverse raw data it can provide for its studies. Additionally, by Koreanizing the genealogical data that is currently recorded in Chinese, making it more accessible, the general population will gain more interest in this subject.

According to a census in 1997, there exists 287 different family names in Korea, all of which descended from different backgrounds and origins. Although not mainstream, a number of Korean surnames such as Kyo, Keun, Myo, Sam, Jeo, and Jeup exist, while most dominant groups are ranked as shown in the chart.






Jeon Chae-yun        chaeyun111@hanyang.ac.kr
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