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Do Korean wives take their husband’s name?


Korean society has a unique set of customs and traditions that have been passed down through generations. One such custom is the practice of changing one’s surname after marriage. However, the question remains: do Korean wives take their husband’s name? In this article, we will explore the answer to this question and delve deeper into the cultural and historical significance of this tradition.

History of surname changes in Korea

In Korea, a person’s surname represents their family lineage and is considered an important aspect of their identity. Historically, women were expected to take on their husband’s surname after marriage as a sign of their union and loyalty to their new family. This practice was rooted in Confucianism, which emphasized the importance of family unity and hierarchy.

Current practice in South Korea

In modern-day South Korea, the practice of surname changes has become less common. According to a survey conducted by the Ministry of Interior in 2018, only about 3% of married women changed their surnames after marriage. This shift can be attributed to several factors, including changing social attitudes and a desire for gender equality.

Reasons for not changing surnames

There are several reasons why Korean women may choose not to change their surnames after marriage. Some may wish to maintain their own individual identity or professional reputation, while others may feel that the tradition is outdated or unnecessary. Additionally, some women may have already established themselves under their birth name, making it difficult or inconvenient to change.

Alternative options for married couples

For couples who do not wish to follow the traditional practice of surname changes, there are alternative options available. One option is for both partners to keep their respective surnames, while another is for one partner to adopt the other’s surname as a middle name. Some couples may also choose to create a new surname together.

Regional differences in Korea

It’s worth noting that there are regional differences in the practice of surname changes within Korea. In some areas, such as Jeju Island, it is still common for women to take on their husband’s surname after marriage. This can be attributed to the influence of regional customs and traditions.

Impact on family relationships

The practice of surname changes can have a significant impact on family relationships in Korea. In traditional families, taking on a new surname after marriage symbolizes a woman’s acceptance into her husband’s family and can strengthen the bond between them. However, for couples who choose not to follow this tradition, it may require more effort to establish familial ties and maintain harmony within the household.

Legal considerations

In South Korea, there are no legal requirements for women to change their surnames after marriage. However, it is important to note that there may be legal implications for couples who choose alternative options, such as creating a new surname. Couples should consult with a legal expert to ensure that their chosen option is legally valid.

International perspectives

The practice of surname changes after marriage varies widely across cultures and countries. In some countries, such as Japan and China, it is common for women to take on their husband’s surname. In others, such as the United States and Canada, it is not uncommon for couples to keep their respective surnames or for one partner to adopt the other’s surname as a middle name.

Cultural significance

The practice of surname changes in Korea has deep cultural significance and reflects the importance of family and social hierarchy in Korean society. While the tradition is becoming less common, it remains an important part of Korean heritage and identity.


In conclusion, the practice of surname changes after marriage in Korea is a complex and nuanced topic. While it was historically common for women to take on their husband’s surname, the practice has become less common in modern times. Couples now have a variety of options available to them, including keeping their respective surnames or creating a new one together. Regardless of the chosen option, the tradition remains an important part of Korean culture and heritage.

Is it still illegal to marry someone with the same last name in Korea?

In Korea, a child typically takes on their father’s last name. It is traditionally not allowed for individuals with the same surname and ancestral home, known as dongseong dongbon, to marry.

What are the Korean rules for marriage?

In South Korea, only heterosexual couples are allowed to legally marry as same-sex marriages are not recognized. Individuals who are 18 years or older (males) or 16 years or older (females) can get married with the consent of their parents or guardians.

How do you address a married woman in Korean?

In Korean culture, the title “ajumma” is used to refer to a middle-aged woman who looks like she is married. On the other hand, if a woman is well-dressed and appears wealthy, she may be referred to as “samonim,” which means “teacher’s wife.” This distinction is based on appearance and social status.

What percentage of wives take their husband’s name?

Even though feminism and gender equality have become more prevalent, the vast majority of women still take their spouse’s last name when they get married. In the US, only about 20% to 30% of women choose to keep their own name.

Can Kim marry Kim in Korea?

For a long time, a law prohibited people with the same surname and ancestral paternal origin from marrying each other. However, in 1997, South Korea’s Constitutional Court declared this law unconstitutional, and in 2005, the civil code was changed to only prohibit marriage between closely related individuals.

Why don t koreans take their husbands last name?

In traditional Korean society, which was dominated by men, family values were highly prized and people were very aware of their own family identities. Women in Korea traditionally keep their surnames after getting married because they view it as a way of preserving the legacy of their parents and ancestors, and believe that it cannot be altered.

It is important to note that the practice of surname changes is not limited to women in Korean culture. In some cases, men may also change their surnames after marriage, though this is less common. Additionally, there are cases where families may choose to change their surnames for various reasons, such as to distance themselves from a negative reputation or to honor a respected ancestor.

Overall, the decision to change surnames after marriage remains a personal one for couples in Korea. While the tradition has historical and cultural significance, it is ultimately up to each individual couple to decide what works best for them and their families. As Korean society continues to evolve and shift towards greater gender equality, it will be interesting to see how this tradition continues to adapt and change over time.

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