Lee is the second most common name, and Park or Pak is the third. All told, about 45 percent of Koreans have one of these three names!
South korea ends a taboo, strikes blow for true love
But why are Kims so particularly plentiful? And are they all related to each other?
The answer lies in the historical ificance of the Kims. For many centuries in Korea, surnames were rare among anyone but royalty and the aristocracy.
This circumstance held until the granting of surnames became a mark of favor by the king during the Goryeo dynasty — Later, during the late Joseon dynasty —some commoners adopted family names for social and economic advantage, a practice that proliferated after the class system was abolished in and the Japanese colonizers forced Koreans to take surnames.
Commoners often chose the names of lofty clans like the Kims, the Lees, or the Parks.
But not even all those who are Kims by inheritance are the same. A basic unit of the Korean traditional kinship system is the clan, or bongwana group whose surname ifies a common geographical origin.
Thus, different Kims can trace their lineage to different places, most notably Gimhae. The southeastern city was the birthplace of Kim Su-Ro, the man recognized as the original Kim and the founder 42 CE of Gaya, another ancient Korean kingdom.
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There are some other Kim clans, including those who originate from GyeongjuAndong which actually has two Kim clansand Gwangsan. Are all Koreans who share a surname considered to be related to one another? Nevertheless, there was long a law in place to forbid marriage between people with the same surname and ancestral paternal origin. Thus, a Mr. Kim and Ms. Kim who meet and fall in love at university in Seoul, who had never heard of each other before but learn they are both Gyeongju Kims, may now marry, Romeo and Juliet no more.
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By Lorraine Murray. Like our britannica stories?
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