Skip main navigation

New offer! Get 30% off your first two months of Unlimited. Subscribe for just £35.99 £24.99. New subscribers only. T&Cs apply.

Find out more

Talking about Korean culture: Names

When babies are born whose surname do they inherit?

In Korea, the Family name comes ‘성(first)’ and is followed by ‘이름(the given name)’.

There are various family names in Korea, such as: 김(Kim), 이(Lee), 박(Pak), 최(Choi), 정(Jung), etc… Commonly, when babies are born they take the father’s surname, but recently, even if it’s still only a small number, there are some cases in which the children take the mother’s family name. However, when women get married they keep their own surnames, instead of changing them to that of their husband’s.

Given names are usually made up of two syllables, which have corresponding Chinese characters. However, in the last few decades parents have begun to give their children names in Korean, that are easy to pronounce and have nice meanings, such as : ‘봄(Spring)’, or ‘기쁨(Joy)’, ‘사랑(Love)’, or even ‘이슬(Dew)’.

When referring to someone else, Koreans don’t just call them by their surnames, like 김 씨, 이 씨 or 박 씨. Rather, they say the person’s full name, for example: 김민수 씨 or 이수미 씨, etc… In the case that the two people have a close relationship, they can call each other simply by using their given names, for example: 성수 씨 and 수미 씨.

What about in your country? When babies are born whose surname do they inherit? Also, when a woman marries, does she keep her family name or does she change it? If there are unusual or interesting facts regarding names and surnames in your country, let us know about them!

This article is from the free online

Introduction to Korean 2

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now