Wedding Tradition in Korea, Wife Don’t Take Husband’s Last Name!

wedding tradition in korea

In this article we will share to you information about wedding tradition in korea, the reasons why korean wife don’t take their husband’s last name. If you plan to marry with Korean women, then you want to know more about this culture.

wedding tradition in korea

Recently we saw many foreigner marry with korean women / man and create a beautiful mix family that having 2 homecountry. Marriage is definitely an important event in everyone’s life, especially for those who plan to create a happy family in the future.

wedding tradition in korea

However there might be a difference between two culture and that’s why it’s important to know the diffference in which one of them is that women don’t change their family name after getting married. This one has been the norm since Joseon Dynasty. 

We will explain to you furhter about wedding traditions in korea, as well as the origins of why it happened. Let’s dive right to it.

Wedding Tradition in Korean History

wedding tradition in korea

To know all about the origins of wedding traditions in Korea, we need to go back to Goguryeo Dynasty back then from the 1st century ~ 668 A, one of te ancient three kingdoms of korea.

wedding tradition in korea

During Goguryeo (고구려) era, when two families decide on a marriage, the bride’s family will prepare the seo-ok-je (서옥제), as known as a small house behind the women parents house for the couple to live together after marriage.

Afterwards, when the seo-ok-je (서옥제) or small house was built behind their main house, the korean men will come during sunset, announces his name, bows, do 혼약 (honyak) or wedding promise and proposes to sleep with the bride. 

This actions of kneeling will be repeated for three times, then the bride’s parents will give permission for the couple to sleep together in the seo-ok-je (서옥제) that was built.

wedding tradition in korea

Credit to 중학교 역사

Back then, Korean men used the term jangga ganda (장가간다) when getting married. Jangga (장가) comes from Jangineui jib (장인의집) which means father in law’s house. 

Both couple will stay in Seo-ok-je (서옥제) for about 10 years or until their children grew up, before the husband can takes his wife and children back to his own house. Other than that, the women also keep their original family name or surname after marriage.

wedding tradition in korea

While you might think that this tradition are beneficial towards women, the truth is they have hidden implications showing a patriarchal society. This is well known as Derilsawi or Bongsahon System. Derilsawi is the practice of the groom living at the bride’s home after marriage. Bongsahon is the practice of the groom living in the bride’s home for a certain period while providing labor.

wedding tradition in korea

Seo-ok-je (서옥제) wedding tradition in korea also came with a reasons, this traditions was really helpful for families with no sons. If the husband took the wife to his own house after marriages, then it would be a problem for the women’s parents as it would cause a shortage of agricultural labor on their part.

wedding tradition in korea

The reason of women need to keep their original family name after marriage was also significant for the women’s father. This tradition honor the women father’s bloodline as korean truly respect and place a great importance on bloodlines, inheritance and honor.

wedding tradition in korea

In addition of all of the culture we mention above, there’s actually a culture in Buyeo, ancient kingdom in the north of Korea, where the younger brother must take his older brother’s wife, if in case his brother’s don’t have a child, in order to continue the bloodline of his brother. However, this cause many crime during that era.

How to identify married person in Korea

wedding tradition in korea

Many of tourist or foreigner then start wondering how to identify a married person in south korea as they don’t take their husband surname just like a western culture. Both western and korean culture actually have more similarity rather than differences, and we can use the similarities to figure out how to identify married person in korea.

Look at Wedding Ring

wedding tradition in korea

Just like any other culture in the whole world, korean also use wedding ring as a symbol of their covenant, engagement, marriage, love and attachment to one another. Korean put great importance on this one, so you can check on their finger to know if they’re married or single.

Ask their age and relationship

wedding tradition in korea

Due to the pandemic and tough financial situation, the marriage rate of korean in south korea is decreasing a lot and also their average marriage ages is also increasing. Decades ago, koreans usually got married below 30, however, these days, koreans usually married 30+ both for men and women.

You also will find many korean choose to be single rather than getting married, because of finances, relationship attachment, and also family issues. It is very normal for us to ask someone age and also relationship status, because only by this way we can know how to treat and talk to them properly.

Logical Reasons behind not change Family name

wedding tradition in korea

While back then during goguryeo era the reason women don’t change their family name mostly influence by the father’s bloodline and inheritance, modern korean also have logical reasons to not changing their family names after marriage. Here’s some of the reasons.

Maintain Family Origins

wedding tradition in korea

Women is not a man’s asset or property that they lose their identity of where they came from, that’s why it is considered respect for the korean women family. Other than that, korean women’s family also did not accept any gifts of money from the man as it would imply a meaning of them selling their daughter.

Don't Need To Change Documents

wedding tradition in korea

When you change your family name, you need to change all the official documents including your identity card, passport and other official information. This definitely makes marriages become complicated and unnecessary. 

Other than that, after they divorce, the women also need to change it back again, which is just a total waste of time. That’s why it’s better not to change anything as it would save much time and energy.

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4 thoughts on “Wedding Tradition in Korea, Wife Don’t Take Husband’s Last Name!”

  1. In Sweden sometimes even the husband chooses his wifes surname, or they both agree on changing their surnames to an old familyname (from either of their family’s,)

    1. Oh i see.. It is interesting, thank you for share this information about sweden family culture 😀

  2. Rachana Ravi Nair

    I loved this idea and the culture Thanks for sharing. In India scenarios are different as our country has a diverse culture it is unique. Our country has many traditions. But Korea 🇰🇷 has unique traditions and other countries have started liking it.

    1. korea landscape

      yep it’s true, and thanks for loving Korea, india also have great culture and history like the famous ‘Khrisna’ stories.

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