Korean Last Names – Common Korean Last Names And Meanings!

korean last names

Are you curious about the history and significance of Korean last names? In this article I will share to you most common Korean surnames and unravel their historical importance.

With tons of names recorded, understanding the meaning and origins of these names can provide valuable insights into Korean heritage.

Today, we will delve into the historical context surrounding these names, including their connection to specific clans, and family. Let’s dig in!

Table of Contents

Historical Significance of Korean last names

The origin of Korean last names dates back to centuries.

In ancient times, last names were primarily used to identify one’s clan or family lineage.

They serve as a way to distinguish individuals and their place in society.

Over time, as Korea went through various dynasties and invasions, last names took on additional meanings and significance.

During the Goryeo Dynasty, which lasted from 918 to 1392, the use of last names became more widespread.

The ruling class – Yangban, adopted fixed surnames to establish their identity and social status.

According to Ling, this practice eventually spread to the common people during Joseon eras, leading to the proliferation of last names in Korean society.

In addition, during Japanese colonization period, Koreans were forced to have last names.

This is where the adoption of this last name goes all through out the country.

Most Common Korean Last Names and Their Meanings

korean last names

Credit to Quora

According to the KOSIS survey taken in 2015, the most common Korean last names are Kim, Lee, and Park, known as ‘The Big Three’.

Here are the statistics based on survey in 2015.

1. Kim (김)
10.6 million
2. Lee (이)
7.3 million
3. Park (박)
4.1 million
4. Choi (최)
2.333 million
5. Jung / Jeong (정)
2.151 million
6. Kang (강)
1.176 million
7. Cho / Jo (조)
1.055 million
8. Yun / Yoon (윤)
1.02 million
9. Jang (장)
10. Im / Lim (임)

1. Kim

korean last names

The last name Kim, spelled as 김 in Hangul, is the most common Korean surname. 

It is derived from the Chinese character 金, which means “gold.” 

The Kim clan has a deep-rooted history and has produced numerous influential figures throughout Korean history.

2. Lee

korean last names

Lee names is derived from the Chinese character 李, which means “plum.” 

According to Ancestry, the origin of Lee names that can be traced back to the House of Yi, descendants of Yi Seong-gye, founder of Joseon Dynasty

Many renowned artists, scholars, and politicians come from the Lee family.

3. Park

korean last names

The last name Park, spelled as 박 in Hangul, is derived from the Chinese character 朴, which means “simple” or “plain.” 

The Park clan has a long and illustrious history, with many prominent figures emerging from this family, especially in Silla Dynasty.

4. Choi

korean last names

The last name Choi, spelled as 최 in Hangul, is derived from the Chinese character 崔, which means “steep” or “high.” 

The Choi clan has a long history and has produced notable figures in various fields, including literature, arts, and politics.

Choi Kyu-hah, the former president of South Korea, belonged to the Choi family.

5. Jung

korean last names

The last name Jung, spelled as 정 in Hangul, is derived from the Chinese character 鄭, which means “upright” or “correct.” 

The Jung clan has a strong presence in Korean history and has produced influential individuals in various fields.

Jung Yak-yong, also known as Dasan, was a prominent scholar and philosopher from the Jung family.

Rare Korean Last Names

In case you are wondering about the Rarest last names in Korea, here are some of rare korean last names you might never heard.

  1. Sam (삼) – This name appeared in the census 1960 from South Gyeongsang province.
  2. Jeo (저)
  3. Noe (뇌)
  4. Sam (샘)
  5. Gae (개) / dog – This name was first discovered in Yeoju during a census in 1930. 
  6. Jeup (즙) – This name was originated from Japanese colonial period. Korean who married Japanese was given this last names.
  7. Hak (학) / crane or learning
  8. Eo Geum (어금)
  9. Cheon (천)
  10. Geun (근) – axe

Sum Up

In conclusion, Korean last names have a profound historical significance that reflects the country’s cultural heritage.

Understanding the meanings and origins of these names provides valuable insights into Korean society and its complex history.

Exploring the historical significance of these names can deepen your understanding and appreciation for Korean heritage.

In addition, the stories behind these names offer a glimpse into the lives of those who came before us and their contributions to Korean society.

Let us continue to honor and preserve the historical significance of these names for future generations to come.

Check out our another article:

korean last names
korean last names

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