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Do Koreans take their mothers last name?


Korea is known for its unique culture and customs, and one of the most fascinating aspects of Korean society is its naming system. Unlike Western cultures, where children typically take their father’s last name, the Korean naming system is more complex. In this article, we will explore whether Koreans take their mother’s last name and the reasons behind it.

The Korean Naming System

The Korean naming system is based on Confucian principles and has a distinct structure. It consists of three parts: the surname, given name, and generation name. The surname comes first, followed by the given name, which is often a two-syllable word. The generation name is shared by all siblings of the same gender in a family and comes after the given name.

The Patriarchal Society

Korea has traditionally been a patriarchal society, where men hold more power and influence than women. As a result, children usually take their father’s last name to continue the family line. This practice is still prevalent in modern Korea, though some families are beginning to adopt different naming traditions.

The Mother’s Last Name

In Korea, it is not common for children to take their mother’s last name. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. For example, if a family does not have any sons, they may choose to pass down the mother’s last name to their daughters to keep the family name alive.

Matrilineal Societies

Some societies around the world have matrilineal naming systems where children take their mother’s last name instead of their father’s. However, Korea is not one of these societies. Instead, it follows a patrilineal naming system that emphasizes the importance of male lineage.

Changing Attitudes

Despite Korea’s traditional naming system, attitudes towards gender and family are changing in modern society. More women are entering the workforce and taking on leadership roles, and some families are beginning to adopt more egalitarian naming traditions.

Legal Issues

In Korea, there are no laws that require children to take their father’s last name. However, it is still the dominant practice in Korean society. If a family chooses to give their child the mother’s last name, they may face some legal issues, such as difficulties with inheritance and property rights.

Alternative Naming Traditions

In recent years, some families in Korea have started adopting alternative naming traditions. For example, some parents are choosing to give their children a combination of both the mother’s and father’s last names to create a new family name.

International Marriages

With the rise of international marriages in Korea, there are more cases where children may have different last names than their parents. In these cases, the parents may choose which last name to pass down to their children based on cultural or personal preferences.

Gender Equity

As Korea moves towards a more gender-equitable society, there may be more opportunities for women to take on leadership roles and have greater influence in society. This could also lead to changes in the traditional naming system and a greater acceptance of alternative naming traditions.

The Importance of Family

Regardless of the naming traditions they follow, family is highly valued in Korean society. Family ties are considered essential, and Koreans often prioritize their family over individual interests. This emphasis on family is reflected in the Korean naming system and its focus on maintaining a strong family lineage.


In conclusion, Koreans generally do not take their mother’s last name. However, as attitudes towards gender and family evolve in modern society, there may be more opportunities for alternative naming traditions to emerge. Regardless of the naming tradition, family remains a central aspect of Korean culture and society.

Do Koreans take their spouses last name?

In Korean culture, a person’s name is made up of a family name and a given name. Like many other cultures, children typically take their father’s surname. However, unlike many other cultures, Korean women do not take their husband’s surname when they get married.

How are last names passed down in Korea?

The last name, or surname, is passed down from a person’s father and shared among siblings. It precedes the given name and is typically one syllable or character in length.

When a foreigner marries a Korean do they take their last name?

In Korea, it is not customary to change surnames, even after marriage. Women who get married in Korea are not required to change their family names. This tradition is not a part of Korean culture.

Can Kim marry Kim in Korea?

For a long time, there was a law that prohibited marriage between individuals who shared the same surname and paternal ancestry. However, in 1997, South Korea’s Constitutional Court deemed this law unconstitutional, and the civil code was subsequently revised in 2005 to only prohibit marriage between closely-related individuals.

What is the Korean family rule?

In the past, Korean family structures were based on Confucian principles that placed a strong emphasis on hierarchical relationships, with patriarchal authority at the forefront. This meant that husbands/fathers were expected to display both dominance and kindness to their wives, who in turn were expected to obey and love their husbands.

Why is Kim so common in Korea?

In ancient Korea, family names such as Lee and Kim were once used by royalty, and therefore became popular choices for provincial elites and later, by commoners as a last name.

It is worth noting that the Korean naming system has a deep cultural significance and is an essential aspect of Korean identity. The surname represents the family’s ancestral roots, while the given name reflects the individual’s personality and character. The generation name emphasizes the importance of family lineage and continuity.

In addition, Koreans often address each other using honorific titles based on age, gender, and social status. For example, older individuals are addressed with honorifics such as “ajumma” or “ajussi,” while younger individuals may be addressed as “oppa” or “unnie.” These honorifics reflect the hierarchical nature of Korean society, where respect for elders and social status are highly valued.

Overall, the Korean naming system is deeply rooted in Confucian principles and traditional patriarchal values. However, as Korean society evolves and becomes more gender-equitable, there may be opportunities for alternative naming traditions to emerge. Regardless of these changes, family remains an essential aspect of Korean culture and society, and maintaining strong family ties will continue to be a central value for Koreans.

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