What Are Some Korean Family Names?


Quick Answer

The most common Korean surnames, according to International Business Times, are Lee, Park and Kim. These names account for the surnames of more than half of the Korean peninsula's 75 million inhabitants. Other Korean family names include Jeong, Yoon, Shin, Choi and Kang.

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Full Answer

The lack of a variety of names is a result of Korea's subjugation to first Chinese and then later Japanese rule. The Korean people were oppressed by both governments and, for centuries, were less educated than their Chinese and Japanese counterparts. Only members of nobility could afford the time and tutelage to learn the extensive set of Chinese characters. Once they did, they began taking on surnames using Chinese characters. Only when the Korean language, which was intended to be simple enough for uneducated farmers to learn, was invented by King Sejong did the Korean people begin to become more educated and take on last names. When they did so, they copied the actions of their own nobility and adopted the last names of royalty so that they could claim the then superior Chinese lineage. Lee, Park and Kim were common names of Chinese royalty. Of the 250 Korean surnames in circulation, it is estimated that more than half of them are of Chinese origin. This doesn't necessarily mean, however, that a Korean family has Chinese heritage.

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