is the most common family name
. The name is common in both modern-day North Korea
and South Korea
. The Chinese character
used for the name (金) means "gold
," and although the character is usually pronounced "geum" (금) in Korea, it is pronounced "gim" (김) when used for the family name and names of some cities, e.g., Gimhae
(金海) and Gimpo
Approximately 21% of ethnic Koreans have the family name Kim.
A common ancestor
In ancient historical records, a Xiongnu
prince named Kim Iljae
was mentioned. This was a man who had gone from royalty, to a slave, and then to an official in the Han
court. Kim Iljae's presence within the Han court was vast and very high in rank by the time of Han Wudi
's death. Kim Iljae's descendants later fled Han China and escaped into the Korean Peninsula
to the Silla
Kingdom, and some went even further down to establish the Gaya Confederacy
As with most other Korean family names, there are many Kim clans, known in Korean as bon-gwan, each of which consists of individual Kim families. Most Kims belong to one of a few very large clans. Even within each clan, people in different families are not related to each other. These distinctions are important, since Korean law used to prohibit intermarriage in the same clan, no matter how remote the relationship; now, however, only those in a relationship of second cousins or closer may not marry.
As with other Korean family names, the Kim clans are distinguished by the place from which they claim to originate. A very large number of distinct Kim clans exist, besides those listed here. The 2000 South Korean census listed 348 extant Kim lineages.
The Uiseong (의성) clan's lineage goes all the way back to the last prince of Silla
, who later became a monk.
According to a story recorded only in the Samguk Yusa
, in 48 CE, Princess Heo Hwang-ok made an epic journey from a country called "Ayuda" to Korea, where she married King Suro of Geumgwan Gaya
and gave birth to 10 children, thus starting the Kim dynasty
of Geumgwan Gaya
, the capital of which was in present-day Goryeong County
. The country of Ayuda is often identified with Ayodhya
Famous ancient members of this clan, aside from the kings of Geumgwan Gaya, include the Silla general Kim Yu-shin. In the Unified Silla period, members of the Gimhae Kim family were admitted to all but the highest level of the Silla bone rank system.
This clan is by far the most populous of all Korean clans. The 2000 South Korean census found it to contain more than four million people.
Kims trace their descent from the ruling family of Silla
. The founder of this clan is said to have been Kim Alji
, an orphan adopted by King Talhae of Silla
in the first century CE. Alji's seventh-generation descendant was the first member of the clan to take the throne, as King Michu of Silla
in the year 262.
This clan is also extremely populous. In the South Korean census of 2000, more than 1.7 million citizens claimed to be Gyeongju Kims.
Kims trace their origin to the founder of the little-known Gaya
state of Goryeong Gaya
. His alleged tomb, rediscovered in the 16th century, is still preserved by the modern-day members of the clan. This clan numbered only 26,300 members in the 2000 South Korean census.
Given the prevalence of the family name Kim, a great number of people share this surname.
Storey, Robert. Lonely Planet: Korea
. Lonely Planet Publications: Melbourne, Aus. 2001.