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What is the oldest surname in Korea?


The concept of surnames was first introduced in Korea in the early Goryeo period. Since then, surnames have become an important aspect of Korean culture and identity. In this article, we will explore the history of surnames in Korea and answer the question, “What is the oldest surname in Korea?”

The Origin of Surnames in Korea

The use of surnames in Korea began during the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). At this time, surnames were only used by the royal family and aristocrats. However, during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897), surnames became more widespread among the general population.

The Evolution of Korean Surnames

Korean surnames have undergone significant changes over time. The earliest surnames were derived from clan names, such as Kim, Lee, and Park. Later, surnames were also based on geographic locations, occupations, and personal characteristics.

The Oldest Surname in Korea

The oldest surname in Korea is believed to be Go (고). The Go clan originated in Gyeongju, which was the capital of the Silla Kingdom (57 BC – 935 AD). The Go clan also has a long history of military service and is known for producing many famous generals.

Other Ancient Korean Surnames

In addition to Go, there are several other ancient Korean surnames that have been passed down through generations. These include Kim (김), Lee (이), Park (박), Choi (최), and Jeong (정).

The Significance of Surnames in Korean Culture

Surnames are an important aspect of Korean culture and identity. They provide a sense of belonging and help to maintain family traditions. In Korean society, it is also common for people to address each other by their surnames rather than their given names.

How Korean Surnames Are Written

Korean surnames are typically written in one or two syllables. The surname always comes first, followed by the given name. For example, Kim Min-Jae (김민재) would be Mr. Kim.

The Importance of Genealogy in Korean Culture

Genealogy is highly valued in Korean culture. Many families keep detailed records of their ancestors and family history. These records are often passed down through generations and can provide insight into one’s cultural heritage.

Changes to Korean Surnames

In recent years, there have been efforts to modernize and simplify Korean surnames. This has led to the creation of new surnames and changes to existing ones. However, these changes have been met with some resistance from traditionalists who believe that the original surnames should be preserved.

The Future of Korean Surnames

As Korea continues to modernize and change, it is likely that surnames will continue to evolve as well. However, it is also important to remember the rich history and cultural significance of these names.


In conclusion, the oldest surname in Korea is Go (고). However, there are many other ancient surnames that play an important role in Korean culture and identity. Surnames provide a sense of belonging and connection to one’s ancestors, and they are a crucial aspect of Korean society.

Which surname is highest in Korea?

Kim is the most widely used surname in Korea, especially in South Korea, followed by Lee and Park.

When did last names start in Korea?

The Korean class system was abolished in 1894 and a census regulation in 1904 required all Koreans to register a surname, which is still practiced today. Many naturalized South Korean citizens choose popular surnames such as Kim, Lee, Park, and Choi.

Does Korea have a royal family?

The Imperial Family of Korea was established in 1392 by King Seong-gye Lee, and they have been the ruling family of the Joseon and Korean Empire. Their goal is to represent the Korean people and embody values such as love, human rights, peace, freedom, and unity.

What Korean surnames mean dark?

The surname Hyun is written using one hanja character (玄; 검을 현 geomeul hyeon) which means “dark” or “mysterious”. In the year 2000, the South Korean Census identified 81,807 individuals and 25,547 households with this last name.

Is Nguyen a Korean last name?

Nguyễn (阮) is the most widely used surname in Vietnam and is often written as Nguyen outside of Vietnam. It is important to note that Nguyên (元) is a different surname altogether. Around 39% of Vietnamese people have the Nguyễn surname.

Do Korean wives take their husband’s last name?

In Korean culture, names are made up of two components: a family name and a given name. Typically, children inherit their father’s surname, as is common in other societies, but Korean women do not adopt their husband’s surname when they get married.

It is also worth noting that in Korean culture, there are some surnames that are considered more prestigious than others. For example, Kim, Lee, and Park are some of the most common surnames in Korea and are often associated with wealth and power. On the other hand, there are some less common surnames that may be looked down upon or perceived as less desirable.

In addition to traditional surnames, there are also many Koreans who have adopted Western-style names or combined their Korean surname with a Western first name. This trend has become more popular in recent years, particularly among younger generations who have grown up in a more globalized world.

Despite these changes, surnames remain an important part of Korean culture and identity. Even as Korean society continues to evolve, the significance of these names – and the histories and traditions they represent – will continue to be celebrated and honored for generations to come.

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