Culture Capsule 8

What's in a Korean Name

Typically, a Korean name consists of a family name and a given name which is typically made up of two Chinese characters. For instance, take a common Korean name such as 'Kim Yeong Su'. Here 'Kim' is the family name and 'Yeong Su'is the given name.

Traditionally, when parents select a child's given name in Koream the given name is derived from two Chinese characters. One Chinese characters is affixed according to generation so that brothers, sisters and cousins would have the same Chinese character. The second Chinese character would be individually selected by the parents. Based upon two Chinese characters, a child would receive his given name. However, many modern Korean parents have chosen a different method in selecting their child's given name. Instead of selecting their child's given name via the use of Chinese characters, many Korean parents have chosen to select pure Korean names without any reference to Chinese characters.

Currently, there are approximately 90 family names in Korea. Some of the most common family names in Korea are Kim, Lee, Park, and Choi. In most western countries, after a woman marries she legally adopts the husband's family name as her own. However in Korea, a woman maintains her family's name throught her life.

-Write reference Korean Languge Education Center, Sogang University

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