Makura no sōshi


Sōshi-kaimei (Japanese: 創氏改名) was a policy created by Jiro Minami, Governor-General of Korea under the Empire of Japan, implemented upon Japanese subjects from Korea (referred to below as Koreans). As defined by Ordinance No. 19, issued in 1939, sōshi, literally "creation of a family name (氏, shi)", was mandatory because (according to Japanese logic) Korean family names were not family names but clan names (姓, sei) which indicate a person's father's origin, while by Ordinance No. 20, issued in 1940, kaimei, literally "changing (your) given name", was voluntary and would be charged a fee. This was effectively a reversal of an earlier government order forbidding Koreans from taking Japanese names. There are various explanations as to the purpose of the ordinances.

Order No. 124

In 1909, the Empire of Korea, on the basis of guidance from Japan, established a , starting the creation of a modern family registry system. With regards to the recording of details about women such as the father's surname, age, and connection to the registry holder, due to attention that needed to be given to avoiding conflict with Korean customs, the drafting of the law was not completed until April 1910, just before the annexation of Korea. By that time, a portion of Koreans had already registered Japanese-style names and the like, which generated confusion. As a result, on the basis of memoranda such as Order No. 124, "Document regarding name changes by Koreans issued by the Governor-General of Korea on November 11 1911, the use by Koreans of "names which might be mistaken for those of native Japanese was no longer permitted, and strict controls were placed on the registration of Japanese-style names for newborn children. Additionally, Koreans who had registered Japanese-style names on there were required to revert to their original names.

Ordinances No. 19 and 20

In 1939 and 1940, a new name-change policy came into effect by means of Ordinances No. 19 and 20. Originally, as in Taiwan, the new name-change policy was intended simply to allow change of surname (sei/seong) and given name, but because Korea had a long-established custom (recently abandoned) whereby people of the same bon-gwan (surname and clan) were not allowed to marry each other, in order that this custom could continue, it was decided that the policy would be implemented by leaving the clan name and sei the same in the family register, while permitting a new family name (shi/ssi) to be registered. On the other hand, in Taiwan, which was also under Japanese rule in the same period, but did not have an analogous custom, the policy was not described as "creation of a shi", but was simply "change of sei and given name" (改姓名).

With regards to the creation of a family name (shi), there were both "shi created by (individual) selection" (設定創氏) and "shi created by law" (法定創氏). In the half year between February 11 and August 10 1940, those who provided notification could create a shi of their own choosing, while those who did not provide any notification would have their shi defined by the clan name (sei) of the head of the household. After the "creation of a family name", a Korean had three names which are a family name shi, a clan name sei, and a personal name mei (first name), all of which are recorded in a person's family register along with the origin place of the clan, bon-gwan. Since all members of a family share the same family name shi, wife's shi, and hence the first character in her legal name, would be the same as her husband's, which differed from the traditional Korean clan name sei, whereby a wife kept her original sei even after marriage (see table). Besides that, selection of a shi with a Japanese-style reading could also be approved; to go along with such a shi, it was also permissible to change one's given name to a Japanese-style name; as the change of given name was voluntary, a fee would be charged for it. Additionally, at the same time, the mukoyōshi system, i.e. an adoption of daughter's husband, (婿養子), which up until then had been forbidden under Korean law, was also introduced. This case was also included in the sōshi-kaimei policy.

Declaration of individually-selected shi and changes of given name initially (in February 1940) were conducted on the basis of voluntary notification. However, at the April prefectural governors' meeting, because of instructions such as "Special consideration should be taken so that the shi registration of all households can be completed by the coming July 20 the administration began to seriously promote the policy, and as a result, starting from April, the number of households registering individually-selected shi began to rise sharply. As of April, only 3.9% of all households had provided notification for creation of a shi, but by August 10, that figure had risen to 80.3%. Also, statements opposing the policy of sōshi-kaimei were censored according to the internal security laws.

There are several viewpoints regarding this sudden increase. Most argue that official compulsion and harassment existed against individuals who would not create a new Japanese-style shi, but disagree whether this was the result of individual unauthorised practises by low-level officials , the policy of some regional government organisations, or an overall intention of the colonial government. Others argue that Koreans seeking to avoid discrimination by Japanese voluntarily created Japanese-style family names.

Regardless, of Koreans living in Korea, the proportion of those who changed their given name reached only 9.6%. Among Koreans living in the mainland of Japan, the proportion of those who created a new shi by individual selection reached 14.2%.

Restoration of original names

After the liberation of Korea from Japanese rule, the Name Restoration Order was issued on October 23 1946 by the United States military administration south of the 38th parallel, enabling Koreans to restore their Korean names if they wished to. However, not all Koreans returned to using their original names, especially Koreans living outside of Korea. Many Zainichi Koreans chose to retain their Japanese names, either to avoid discrimination, or later, to meet the requirements for naturalization as Japanese citizens, while some Sakhalin Koreans who had taken Japanese names were registered by Soviet authorities under those names (which appeared on their Japanese identity papers) after the Red Army occupied Karafuto, and up to the present day have been unable to revert their legal names to their original Korean one.

Name registration of prominent individuals

Those who took a Japanese-style name

Those who retained their Korean-style name

Timeline of family registration procedures in Korea

Year Individual Clan name; bon-gwan (本貫) and seong (姓) Family name; ssi (氏) First name; mei (名) Full name/record
Prior to 1909: Recording in family register (族譜) (The family register was typically managed by the head of the clan; however, many citizens did not have a seong) Husband Gimhae Kim (金海金) None Mu-hyeon (武鉉) Gim Mu-hyeon (金武鉉)
Wife Gyeongju Yi (慶州李) None None No record, as the woman's name was not recorded in the register (族譜)
1910 to 1940: Minseki law system (民籍法制定) (Some citizens who lacked a seong took on Japanese names during this time) Husband Gimhae Kim (金海金) None Mu-hyeon (武鉉) seong and given name Gim Mu-hyeon (金武鉉)
Wife Gyeongju Yi (慶州李) None Mu-a (撫兒) seong and given name Yi Mu-a (李撫兒)
1940 to 1946: sōshi-kaimei (the legal name, which used to be seong and given name, because ssi and given name) In the case of a ssi created by law
Husband Gimhae Kim (金海金) Gim Mu-hyeon (武鉉) ssi and given name Gim Mu-hyeon (金武鉉)
Wife Gyeongju Yi (慶州李) Gim Mu-a (撫兒) ssi and given name Gim Mu-ye (金撫兒)
In the case of a ssi created by the individual
Husband Gimhae Kim (金海金) 大和 武鉉 ssi and given name (大和武鉉)
Wife Gyeongju Yi (慶州李) 大和 撫子 ssi and given name (大和撫子)
After 1946 Name Restoration Order Husband Gimhae Kim (金海金) None Mu-hyeon (武鉉) seong and given name Gim Mu-hyeon (金武鉉)
Wife Gyeongju Yi (慶州李) None Mu-a (撫兒) seong and given name Yi Mu-a (李武鉉)

  • The application period for creation of a ssi was limited to six months in length, while there was no time limit placed on the change of given name
  • Children inherited their father's bon-gwan and seong
  • Children of an unmarried woman inherited the woman's bon-gwan and seong
  • Even if one married, the recorded native region and clan name could not be changed
  • According to customary Korean law (now no longer followed), one can not marry with a person of the same clan name and the same clan origin related within 6 or 8 degrees



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