Kim at large
Some Kims’ ancestry goes back 2,000 years
▶ One in five Koreans is a Kim.
Here’s this week’s tip on Korean language and customs:
Why are there so many Kims and Lees in Korea? Are all Koreans related in some way or another?
Popular Korean last names, such as Kim, Lee and Park, date back to the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392), thus making these names up to 1,000 years old. Kim, one of the most popular last names, originated in the Three Kingdoms Period, when the present-day Korea began to take shape more than 2,000 years ago. Of three ancient kingdoms, Goguryeo, Baekje and Silla, the more prosperous Silla Dynasty in Gyeongsang province had two founding kings with the last name Kim: The Kim clan based in Gyeongju of the Silla Dynasty and another Kim clan based in Gimhae from another ancient kingdom which became part of Silla. Some modern day Kims have kept records of their family pedigrees and take pride in their heritage, saying, they are, for instance, the 74th-generation Kim originating from Gyeongju. A number of Kims are direct descendants of the same clan, sometimes not even knowing that they are related to each other.
For years, Korean civil law, which prohibited marriage between those who shared the same last name from the same origin, created tragedy among lovers, but the law was lifted in 1997. Still, at introductions, some Koreans have the habit of asking the origin of a person’s last name.