In recent times, both North and South Korea started making attempts to reach out to each other with the intervention of the superpowers which has led to some of the most tangible signs of reconciliation. There is so much of culture and history that its citizens have longed to share. One amongst the many points to be discussed would be about the process of naming an individual.
In general, a name consists of a family name followed by a given name in Korea. There is no middle name. Personal names are taken up by the married couples whereas children take up the father’s family name unless otherwise settled when registering the marriage. The family names are subdivided into Bon-Gwan or clans. Each clan identifies itself with a particular area and traces its origin to a common patrilineal ancestor.
Approximately 280 family names were in use till 2000 and the three most common of them were Kim, Lee, and Park which accounted for nearly half of the population. For example; the most populous clan is Gimhae Kim, which is, Kim clan from the city of Gimhae. Clans are subdivided into various ‘Pa’ or branches arising from a more recent common ancestor.
Traditionally, women in Korea keep their family names after their marriage, but their children take their father’s surname. The usage of names is governed by strict norms in Korea. If Mom is looking for a really unique name for your child, then she needs to see these 20 exotic names from Korea.
25 Ha Eun
Ha Eun is a given feminine name and it was the eighth popular name for newborn girls in South Korea in the year 2011. The famous bearers of this name include the popular actress Kim Ha-Eun who was born in 1984 and Yang Ha-Eun, the famous table tennis player born in 1994.
The popular site behindthename.com states that this name is pronounced as hah-uwn and as history points out, this name originates from Sino-Korean ‘summer, great, grand, big’ and ‘kindness, mercy, charity’. The first syllable ‘Ha’ can also come from Hana-Nim, the Korean name for ‘God’, God’s grace.
24 Ji Yeon
In both South and North Korea, a person's name consists of a family name and a given name. Traditionally, most names in Korea are made up of two Sino Korean morphemes, the first one is shared by all the family members and the second one is to be shared by the individual.
Pronounced Jee-Yun, this is a feminine name that is spelled Ji-Youn, Ji-Yeoun, Ji-Yeon, Ji-Yun, Chee-Yun or Chi-Yun. The meaning differs based on the hanja used to write each syllable of the name - 46 hanja for the reading Ji and 39 hanja for the reading Yeon, to be precise. This was the seventh most popular baby girls name in South Korea in 1980 as listed in name-doctor.com. The famous personalities who have this name include Kim Ji-Yeon, fencer and Park Ji-Yeon, singer.
23 Seo Yeon
Seo Yeon was the most popular name for baby girls in South Korea in 2008 and 2009. In the following year, this name was the most popular new name for adult women who were changing their old names.
Seo Yeon is a fairly common feminine name as per culturetrip.com, and this name means ‘felicitous omen, beautiful and graceful’. This is in addition to other female combinations. The famous personalities bearing this name is the South Korean women’s football defender Shim Seo Yeon, who plays for Goyang Daekyo WFC and also the women’s national football team. Another famous personality is Kim Seo Yeon, was crowned Miss Korea in 2014 and represented her country at the 2015 Miss Universe pageant.
22 Eun Ji
Eun Ji is also spelled Eun Jee is a female given name. It was the third popular baby name for girls born in South Korea in 1990. There are 26 hanjas with the reading ‘eun’ and 46 hanjas with the reading ‘Ji’.
Behindthename.com states that Eun Ji is pronounced UWN-JEE. From Sino-Korean history, Eun means ‘Kindness, mercy, charity’ and Ji means ‘intellect, wisdom or other meanings like ‘earth, soil, ground’. Famous bearers of this name include Lim Eun Ji, pole vaulter, the national record holder and Jo Eun Ji, the famous actress.
21 Gyeong Ja
The given name Gyeong Ja has its origins and usage in the Korean language. This name is pronounced as GYUNG-JAH and it is extensively used for girls in Korea. From Sino-Korean history, the name Gyeong has several meanings from congratulating, celebrate, respect and honor and Ja means a child. Therefore this name has a combination of the meanings that were mentioned.
The second syllable of this name was a fashionable name suffix in Japan until it lost its popularity after the change in power in 1945. As mentioned in sailormoon.fandom.com, Gyeong Ja Lee is a voice actress, who played the role of Queen Beryl in Lunar Fairy Sailor Moon, the dub of the sailor moon anime.
20 Jeong Suk
Jeong Suk, also spelled as Jung Sook or Jong Suk is a feminine given name of Korean origins. Its meaning differs on the hanja used to write each syllable of the name and here with the reading Jung, there are 75 hanja and 13 hanja with the reading Sook. This name was the most popular name for newborn girls in 1940 which rose to the second place by 1950.
From Sino Korean history, Jeong means ‘Virtuous, chaste, loyal’, it also means ‘right, proper, correct’ that is combined with Suk which means ‘good, pure, virtuous’. Prominent personalities bearing this name includes Korean Independence activist and later a politician Ho Jong Suk and Kim Jong Suk.
Ji, also spelled as Jee, Chi or Chee is a family name which is predominantly used for girls and in some cases, used for boys as well. This name is also a popular element in Korean given names. As a family name, Ji may be written with either of two hanja, one which means wisdom and the other which means pond.
Each has one clan or Bon-Gwan; for the family name wisdom, Pongju Village in today's North Korea and for the family name pond, Chungju, which is located today in South Korea. Famous personalities who have this name includes Ji Cheong Cheon, the great Korean Independence activist and Ji Suk Jin, entertainer and main cast member of the variety show, Running Man.
18 Kyung Ja
Kyung Ja is also spelled as Kyoung Ja is a feminine name of Korean origins and used in the Korean language. This name is pronounced as GYUNG-JAH. It is a variant transcription of Gyeong Ja. The meaning differs based on the hanja used to write each syllable of the name. There are 54 and 28 hanja with the reading Kyung and Ja respectively. The meaning of the name Kyung is ‘honoured’ and Ja is written with the hanja meaning ‘child’.
This name is one of the many Japanese styled names ending in Ja which was popular when Korea was under Japanese rule. As detailed in behindthename.com, well-known figures who had this name was Moon Kyung Ja, the famous basketball player who took part in the 1984 summer Olympics. Choi Kyung Ja is a former table tennis player who bears this name.
17 Min Jun
Pronounced as MEEN-JOON and also spelled as Min Joon, this name has its origins in the Korean language and is used for both boys and girls, more predominantly for the latter. Min Jun has enjoyed its popularity, thanks to characters named Min Jun in television drama series My Love From the Star. This name has topped the charts for the most popular name for boys from 2004 onwards and has held that position for many years.
In fact, in 2010, this name was also awarded as the most popular new name for adult men who were getting their names changed, especially as they felt their names were too old-fashioned. Min has various meanings like quick, clever, sharp or another set of meanings like gentle, affable which is combined with Jun which means talented or handsome. As shown in behindthename.com, Kim Min Jun, better known by his stage name Jun.K, is one of the well-known individuals in Korea who goes by this name.
16 Seo Hyeon
Seo Hyeon which is pronounced as Su Hyunand spelled as Seo Hyun is a feminine name that originates in Korea. There are 38 hanja with the reading Seo and 68 hanja with the reading Hyeon which may be used in given names. From the name ‘Seo’ which means felicitous, omen and auspicious along with the combination from the name ‘Hyeon’ which means virtuous, worthy and able, not to mention about other combinations of hanja characters that form this name too.
This name is also a variant of Seo Hyun. Singer and actress Seo Hyun who was born as Seo Ju Hyun in 1991 is one famous person who has this name. Another actress Ahn Seo Hyun born in 2004 is also a well-known figure.
15 Suk Ja
Suk Ja can also be spelled as Sook Ja and pronounced as Sook Jah, is a feminine name that traces its origins to the Korean peninsula. This name had the distinction of being placed 5th in the most popular names for girls charts in 1940, as per government sources. The different syllables of this name hold different meanings; ‘Suk’ means good, pure, virtuous and charming and ‘Ja’ means child.
The characters used to write the Korean ‘Ja’ was a fashionable name suffix in Japan, which lost its popularity after Korea was liberated from the Japanese rule. Pansori musician Kim Sook Ja and Shin Suk Ja are the notable personalities that bear this name.
14 Yeong Hui
Yeong Hui was ranked #3 in the most popular name for newborn girls in South Korea in 1950’s as per government data which later went down by a few places to #9 by the ’60s. This name is pronounced as YUNG-HEE and has alternate spellings like Young Hee, Young Hi, Yong Hui or Yong Hi. She has got Korean origins and is a feminine given name. The meaning of this name is a combination of characters where ‘Yeong’ means flower, petal, brave, hero; it also has different meanings like dive, swim.
Here ‘Hui’ means beauty, enjoy or play. Of course, different combinations of characters can form this name as well. This name is also a variant of Young Hee and some famous personalities who bear this name include writer Chang Young Hee and Ko Yong Hui.
13 Yeong Suk
You are looking at the most common full name in South Korea, Kim Young Sook, to be precise. Data shows that in 2012, there were more than forty thousand people in South Korea with this name. Yeong Suk is pronounced as YUNG SOOK and spelled Young Sook or Yong Suk. The name Yeong is a name that can be used for both boys and girls around 1940s and 1950s and Yeong Suk was the most commonly used name for baby girls.
Based on inputs from behindthename.com, this name is a variant of the name Young Sook. From their combined names, Yeong means flower, petal, brave and Suk means good, pure and charming. Important personalities who has this name includes Kim Young Sook, the first wife of the leader Kim Jong-il and Han Young Suk, who was a traditional dancer.
12 Chung Hee
Chung Hee is also spelled as Jung Hee, Jeong Hee, Jeong Hui or in North Korea as Jong Hui. This is a name that is given to both boys and girls and has its origins in the Korean peninsula and is used in countries that speak Korean. Government data shows that this was the fourth most popular name for newborn girls in South Korea in the 1950s and which dropped even further by a couple of places by 1960s.
As it is stated in revolvy.com, there is a wide range of public figures that hold this name and they include Politician Park Chung Hee who was the leader of South Korea starting 1963 and Yoon Jeong Hee.
11 Ji Woo
Ji Woo which is also spelled as JEE WOO is a very popular given name in Korea. From its Korean origins, this name is a favorite for both and girls. Its gaining popularity is shown in the Government charts which states that this name had a credible ranking of # 8 for newborn girls in South Korea in 2008, which rose to the 5th position in 2011 and finally to its highest ranking of reaching the 3rd position in most popular names list for 2013 and 2015 respectively.
‘Ji’ means 'to perceive, wisdom, intellect, comprehend, will, ambition' and the second syllable ‘Woo’ means rain, house or universe. Different combinations of characters can form this name too. The famous personalities who have this name are Jung Ji Woo, famous movie director in South Korea and Kim Ji Woo, a famous actress.
10 Do Hyun
This name which can also be spelled as Do Hyeon is a name given to boys in Korea. Do Hyun has its origins in Korea and the first syllable of this name ‘Do’ means path and the second syllable ‘Hyun’ means to be virtuous and able. There are 44 hanja with reading the first syllable ‘Do’ and 35 hanja with the second syllable ‘Hyun’.
This was a very popular name as shown in the government charts that states Do Hyun was the ninth most popular name for newborn boys in South Korea in 2008 and which fell marginally in the following years. It is mentioned in momjunction.com that Do Hyun is a Christian name. The notable personalities who have this name include Yoon Do Hyun, lead vocalist and Rock singer in South Korea and Oh Do Hyun, a football defender.
9 Go Eun
Go Eun is a name given to baby girls and this name originates in Korea. The meaning of this name could vary based on the character that is used to write each syllable of this name. Go Eun is derived from the adjective ‘goun’ which means delicate and the second syllable of this name ‘Eun’ means silver.
This name is largely a Christian name in Korea as listed out in momjunction.com. It is listed that there are 40 hanja with the reading ‘Go’ and 26 hanja with the reading ‘Eun as per data. The notable personalities bearing this name is Lee Go Eun, volleyball star and Byul, who was born Kim Go Eun.
8 Hyun Sik
Hyun Sik can also be spelled as Hyeon Shik is a name that can be used for both boys and girls. This name has Korean origins and this name has a Korean meaning of ‘clever, smart, brilliant’. Some sources state that this name is predominantly used for boys. The meaning could vary depending on the character used to write each syllable.
There are 35 hanja with the reading Hyun and 16 hanja with the reading Sik. People with this name include the actor Im Hyun Sik, Min Hyun Sik and Ahn Hyun Sik.
7 Soo Kyung
Soo Kyung can also be spelled as Soo Kyeong or Su Kyung has its origins in the Korean language and can be used for both boys and girls. Like most of the Korean names, the meaning of this name differs too based on the characters used to write each syllable. The combined meaning of this name is mild and honored.
This rare Christian name is used mostly for girls than boys. A couple of prominent personalities from the peninsula who bear this name are Ri Su Kyong and Lim Su Kyung.
6 Mi Cha
This is one name all the parents would love to give their daughter because of its interesting meaning. Mi Cha is a 2 syllable baby girl name of Korean origins which means ‘A beautiful girl and is used in Korean speaking countries.
This name has a combined meaning of beauty from the first syllable ‘Mi’ and daughter from the second syllable ‘Cha’. This is a Christian name in South Korea. Numerologically, this name has a personality #6. Babynology.com states that people with the name Mi Cha are loving and domestic. They love tranquility and comfort.
5 Min Ji
Min Jee is an alternate spelling for the name Min Ji. This name has its origins in the Korean language and is a name that is given to baby girls. There are 27 characters with the reading ‘Min’ and 46 characters with the reading ‘Ji’.
The combined meaning for this name is ‘Brightness and Wisdom’, from the first and second syllables of this name. This is also a name which is given to Christian girls. Schoolmykids.com states that Min Ji was ranked fourth in the ‘Most popular name for girls’ in South Korea in 1990. Notable personalities who has this name include Lee Min Ji, who was awarded the Miss Korea title in 1991 and Minjee Lee.
4 Myung Hee
Myung Hee can also be spelled as Myong Hui, Myeong Hui or Myeong Hee. This name has its origins in the Korean Peninsula and Myung Hee can be used for both boys and girls. The combined meaning of the two syllables of this name is ‘Brightness and Pleasure’. The meaning could vary based on the hanja that is used to write each syllable of the name. As per the official government list, Myung has 19 hanja and Hee has 24 hanja.
Famous personalities who have this names are Lee Myung Hee, Chair of the Shinsegae group in South Korea and Lee Myung Hee, volleyball star.
3 Sung Hee
This name can also be spelled as Song Hui in North Korea. Sung Hee is a name that is used for both baby boys and girls and it has its origins in the Korean peninsula. The single syllable ‘Sung’ is uncommon as a family name, but is more popular when it is combined with a different hanja like ‘Hee’.
The combined meaning of Sung Hee is ‘Succeed or accomplish and pleasure’ from the first and the second syllable. There are 27 and 24 hanja with the syllable ‘Sung’ and ‘Hee’ respectively. This is a Christian girl’s name as stated in momjunction.com. The noted personalities who has this name include Ja Mezz, who was born Kim Sung Hee, the male rapper, and the male speed skater Kim Song Hui.
2 So Young
So Young is a 2 syllable baby girl’s name of Korean origins. The usage of this name is in countries which speaks the Korean language. The meaning of the name So Young is a combination of beautiful and everlasting. Its meaning could vary depending on the characters which are used to write each syllable of the name.
There are 45 and 34 hanja respectively with the reading ‘So’ and “Young’ as per official records of the South Korean government. A couple of Visual artists who holds a similar name include Lee So Young, manhwa artist, and Soi Park, who was born Park So Young.
1 Soo Min
Soo Min can also be spelled as Su Min is a name that can be used for both boys and girls. It is stated in schoolmykids.com that this is a Christian name that is largely used by girls. This name is largely used in countries that speak the Korean language. The meaning of Soo Min is a combination of excellence and cleverness when the first and second syllable of the name is considered.
The meaning could vary depending on the hanja used and there are 67 hanja with the reading ‘Soo’ and 27 hanja with the reading ‘Min’. A couple of famous personalities who has this name are Choi Soo Min, the retired female swimmer, and actress Lee Soo Min.
Sources: Korean name Wikipedia, behindthename, name-doctor, culture trip Seo-Yeon