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100 Meaningful Korean Last Names: With Ancient Histories

These Korean last names burst with character and rich Korean history.

Korean last names offer an excellent insight into the fascinating stories and histories of Korean culture. You may be more familiar with the “Big Three” last names — Kim, Lee, and Park — consisting of 44.6% of South Korea’s population. But, you may be unaware of many other diverse Korean surnames with fascinating meanings, ancient tales, and modern appeal.

Korean family names hold high value in Korean society — representing a deep sense of identity and belonging, typically traced back to their original ancestor’s birthplace, to differentiate between clans.

Are you enticed to know more? Keep reading to uncover these Korean gems!

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100 Popular Korean Last Names

Be amazed as you learn about these magical Korean family names.

Ahn 안

Ahn is a South Korean surname derived from the Chinse character 安 (An), meaning “peace.” It is most common in North Korea, followed by the United States and South Korea.

  • Origin: Korean
  • Meaning: Tranquility
  • Pronunciation: AHN
  • Variations: An, AAhun, Ahan, Ahnn, Ahyn
  • Namesakes: Ahn Chang Ho, a significant Korean politician, activist, and early leader of the Korean-American immigrant community to the States.
Traditional, Meaningful

An 안

An is another variation of Ahn, meaning “tranquility” and “peace.” It’s the most common in Northern China and North Korea. Surnames such as An stem from Chinese characters changed into a different script, making this one appear as 安 in Chinese. Modern Korean surnames are now written in Hangul, such as 안.

  • Origin: Korean
  • Meaning: Within, interior, back
  • Pronunciation: AHN
  • Variations: Ahn, Ann, Anh, Ane, Aun
  • Namesakes: An Hyang, or Ahn Yu, from the Sunheung Ahn, a Confucian scholar born in Yeongju, considered the founder of Neo-Confucianism.
  • Popularity: In 2014, An was listed as the 164th most common surname worldwide.
Common, Ancient

Bae 배

Bae belongs to just under 1% of South Korea’s population. People with this surname typically spell it as Bae, while alternate spellings, such as Bai and Pae, are less common. It can also mean “descendant of the king” in East Asia.

  • Origin: Korean
  • Meaning: A pear
  • Pronunciation: PEH
  • Variations: Bai, Pae
  • Namesakes: Bae Doona, a South Korean actress and photographer, and lead female in the Netflix, zombie thriller series, “Kingdom” (2019–present).
Natural, Unusual

Baek 백

Baek is also typically spelled as Paek or Paik. According to records, some Baekje refugees from the late Silla age bore this surname. The Silla or Shilla was a Korean Kingdom in the southern and central parts of the Korean Peninsula between 57 BCE and 935 CE.

  • Origin: Korean
  • Meaning: The color white
  • Pronunciation: PHEYK
  • Variations: Paek, Baik, Paik
  • Namesakes: Baek A-yeon, a South Korean singer and songwriter for Eden Entertainment. Baek Jong-won, a South Korean chef and TV series host.
  • Popularity: In 2014, Baek was the 2,504th most common surname worldwide.
Common, Cool

Ban 반

Ban has various meanings depending on the country in which it is used. In Japanese, it means “help” or “support,” while it also means “forest” in China and “deep valley” in South Korea.

  • Origin: Korean, Chinese, Japanese
  • Meaning: Deep valley
  • Pronunciation: PHEN
  • Variations: Bahn, Pan, Van, Bhan, Barn, Pahn, Bàn
  • Namesakes: Ban Ki-moon, a South Korean politician who served as the eighth secretary-general of the United Nations (2007 – 2016).
  • Popularity: Ban is the most common in China, followed by Japan, South Korea, Cambodia, Vietnam, and India.
Natural, Common

Bang 방

Bang has Scandinavian, English, and Korean origins. In Scandinavia, it’s derived from the Old Norse “banga,” meaning “to pound” or “hammer.” In Korean, Bang is related to the Chinese surname Fāng (方), meaning “four-sided” or “square.” In English, Scottish, and Gaelic, it comes from the Old English “bank(e),” referring to “a dweller near a mound or embankment.”

  • Origin: Korean, English, Scandinavian
  • Meaning: Room, direction
  • Pronunciation: PHENG
  • Variations: Bhang, Bahng, Barng, Baang, Fang
  • Namesakes: Bang Jae-min, a South Korean actor and rapper. Bang Ye-dam, a South Korean singer. Claes Bang, a Danish actor and musician.
  • Popularity: Bang is a pretty common surname, with the highest occurrence in Vietnam.
Cool, Natural

Bok 복

Bok has several origins and meanings, which makes it a great international last name. In Korea, Bok is a Hokkien Chinese pronunciation of various Mandarin surnames, such as Mu (meaning “herder” or “elegant”) and Mo. It typically means “divination” in South Korea. It has German roots from the personal names Bocco or Bucco. It also comes from the Dutch “bok” for “he-goat.”

  • Origin: Korean, Dutch, German
  • Meaning: Divination
  • Pronunciation: PHOH
  • Variations: Bog, Bock, Pock, Boc, Bouk
  • Namesakes: Kenzi Bok, an American local politician in Boston. Bok Geo-il, a South Korean novelist and poet.
  • Popularity: Bok is a pretty uncommon surname, with the highest usage in South Africa, the Netherlands, and Malaysia.
Uncommon, Powerful

Bong 봉

Bong has several origins, occurring in Asia and Europe. In Asia, it’s derived from the Chinese Huáng, meaning “yellow,” and Wáng, meaning “king.” In Korea, it’s also spelled Pong and is associated with Bongsae Bong, referring to a “mythical bird.”

  • Origin: Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese
  • Meaning: Mythical bird, yellow,
  • Pronunciation: PHONG
  • Variations: Pong
  • Namesakes: Lady Bong, Crown Princess of Joseon, from 1429 – 1436. Bong Tae-gyu, a South Korean actor known for starring in the 2000 film “Tears.”
  • Popularity: Bong is a pretty common surname in many Asian countries.
Common, Traditional

Byeon 변

Byeon is also typically spelled Byun and Pyon in South Korea and is a transliteration of a Chinese surname, meaning “hurried.”

  • Origin: Korean, Chinese
  • Meaning: Hurried
  • Pronunciation: PIE-yhun
  • Variations: Byun, Byon, Byoun, Pyun, Byen
  • Namesakes: Byun Jung-soo, a South Korean model and actress. Byun Baek-hyun, or Baekhyun, a South Korean singer-songwriter and member of the South Korean-Chinese boy band Exo.
  • Popularity: Byeon is a less common Korean surname, listed mainly in the United States and South Korea.
Uncommon, Unusual

Chae 채

Chae is also written as 諸 in Chinese characters and is typically Chai in China. According to records, ancestors with this surname were initially named Chaegal (諸葛) in Korea. It’s believed that the clan’s founder descended from a Chinese government official, Chae Kal-lyang. Two brothers split the Chaegal surname during King Kojong’s reign (1213–1259). The younger brother, Yŏng (瑩), took the surname Kal (葛), and the older brother, Hong (泓), took the surname Chae (諸).

  • Origin: Korean, Chinese
  • Meaning: All
  • Pronunciation: TSEH
  • Variations: Chay, Chai, Che, Chea, Cha, Choi
  • Namesakes: Chae Kyung-ju (or Esther K. Chae), a Korean American actress and playwright, known for her roles in “NCIS,” “Law and Order: Criminal Intent,” and “ER.”
Common, Cool
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Chang 장

Chang is among the ten most common Korean family names with several clan founders. One branch of descendants came from Chang Chŏng-p’il (張 貞弼). He was the son of a Chinese military official who fled with his father from political instability in China in AD 888. He later settled in An-dong County, North Kyŏngsang Province.

  • Origin: Korean, Chinese
  • Meaning: Giving
  • Pronunciation: TSENG
  • Variations: Cháng, Jang
  • Namesakes: Chang Cheh, a Chinese filmmaker, lyricist, and producer. Jeffrey Chang Shin-che, a Taiwanese singer and actor.
  • Popularity: Chang was the 147th most popular surname worldwide in 2014, with the highest usage in China and South Korea.
Popular, Ancient

Cheon 천

Cheon is written with two Hanja — either as Ilcheon Cheon (千), meaning “thousand,” or Haneul Cheon (天), meaning “heaven.” In one of the most widely used Korean language Romanization systems (McCune–Reischauer), it is spelled as Ch’ŏn.

  • Origin: Korean
  • Meaning: Thousand, heaven
  • Pronunciation: TSHUN
  • Variations: Chun, Chon, Chen, Choun, Cheun
  • Namesakes: Cheon Jinwoo, a South Korean professor at Yonsei University. Cheon Yanghui, a South Korean poet, known for her “Sorghum Field of the Heart” collection.
  • Popularity: Cheon is rare worldwide, primarily used in Malaysia, the United States, and South Korea.
Rare, Meaningful

Cheong 정

Cheong has Chinese origins, dating back 4,500 years to the grandson of emperor Huang Di (2697–2595 BC), through the surname Hui. Chŏng is also another very common variation used in South Korea.

  • Origin: Chinese, Korean
  • Meaning: Quiet, gently
  • Pronunciation: TSONG
  • Variations: Jeong, Jung, Chung, Joung, Chong, Chŏng
  • Namesakes: Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk, a South Korean Cardinal and Archbishop of Seoul from 1998 to 2012. Sang-Wook Cheong, a South Korean scientist.
  • Popularity: Cheong has the highest recorded usage in Malaysia and Singapore.
Common, Ancient


Cho is also spelled as Jo, with two different Chinese characters. Of the many clans associated with Cho, Ch’angnyŏng Cho is believed to have been founded by the legendary figure, Cho Kye-ryong. This Korean royal family name has become common in Korea, likely adopted by royal ancestors or relatives of people who worked for the royal family and chose to adopt it after the class system was abolished.

  • Origin: Korean
  • Meaning: Nation
  • Pronunciation: TSHU
  • Variations: Jo, Tcho
  • Namesakes: Cho Man-sik, a Korean independence activist. Cho Jae-hyun, a South Korean film, stage, and television actor.
  • Popularity: Cho was the 253rd most common last name worldwide in 2014 and was used by 1% of South Korea’s population.
Popular, Royal

Choi 최

Choi is a Chinese variation of Choe, meaning “mountain, pinnacle,” or “a governor who oversees the land or mountain.” This surname finds its roots in the Gyeongju Choi clan, potentially founded by a Silla scholar, Choe Chiwon. It includes 160 clans, and in the 2015 South Korean census, 2.3 million people were recorded with this last name.

  • Origin: Chinese, Korean
  • Meaning: Moving, shape, high
  • Pronunciation: TSOIY
  • Variations: Chae, Chai, Che, Chea, Cha, Chey, Choe, Chwe
  • Namesakes: Choi Dong-wook, known as Seven, is a South Korean singer. Choi Hyun-suk, a South Korean rapper, dancer, and one of the boy band leaders for Treasure.
  • Popularity: Choi is the most popular in North Korea, Hong Kong, and the United States.
Popular, Heroic

Chu 추

Chu is more commonly recognized as a Mandarin last name, meaning “pain” or “clear” in ancient Chinese. Koreans with this last name are usually descended from Chinese ancestors. One famous founder was Chu Hwang (周 璜), who fled from civil unrest in Tang China and was naturalized in 907. This family claims to descend from the ruling Chinese Chu Dynasty.

  • Origin: Chinese, Korean
  • Meaning: Autumn, season
  • Pronunciation: CHEW
  • Variations: Choo, Chou, Cho, Chue, Chew, Ch’u
  • Namesakes: Chu Eun-ju, a South Korean actress. Chu Ga-yeoul, a South Korean folk-pop singer and songwriter.
  • Popularity: Chu was the 244th most common surname worldwide in 2014, with the highest usage in China and Hong Kong.
Common, Natural

Dan 단

Dan includes three different Korean surnames spelled in the Revised romanization of Korean. The most common clan, Cheunggye Dan, means “stairs.” Several clan lineages identify with this name, known as bon-gwan or Korean clans that share the same ancestor. It’s also associated with the Scandinavian Danes and is a Hebrew name from “din,” meaning “to judge.” In Chinese, the surname is 但, meaning “but.”

  • Origin: Chinese, Korean, Scandinavian, Hebrew
  • Meaning: Stairs
  • Pronunciation: TAHN
  • Variations: Dahn, Dhan, Tan, Dān
  • Namesakes: Fumi Dan, a Japanese actress. Dan Duyu, a Chinese film director.
Common, Traditional

Dang 당

Dang comes from the Chinese Mandarin form of the surname 黨, meaning “party” or “faction.” It can be traced back to a minority ethnic group in ancient northwestern China, believed to have descended from the first king of the Xia Dynasty, Xia Yu (2070–1600 B.C.).

  • Origin: Korean
  • Meaning: Party, justice, sugar
  • Pronunciation: THENG
  • Variations: Dǎng, Táng
  • Namesakes: Dang Qiu, a German professional table tennis player. Đặng Thái Sơn, a Vietnamese Canadian classical pianist.
  • Popularity: Dang is common worldwide, with the highest occurrence in Vietnam and China.
Traditional, Unique

Dokgo 독고

Dokgo comes from an extremely rare compound Chinese last name from an ancient nomadic people, known as the Xianbei. Its precise meaning is unclear, with most Koreans spelling it as Dugu or Tokko. In Korea, it belongs to the Namwon Dokgo clan. In the 6th-century, the Dugus were an influential aristocratic family from northwest China, associated with the famous Dugu sisters of the Western Wei general, Dugu Xin.

  • Origin: Chinese, Korean
  • Meaning: Battle-ax
  • Pronunciation: TOH-koh
  • Variations: Dugu, Tokko, Dokko, Dockko, Dockgo, Dohkgoh
  • Namesakes: Empress Dugu, Queen Mingjing, the eldest daughter of Dugu Xin.
Rare, Unusual

Deung 등

Deung is an extremely rare surname, with little information available. According to sources, the Cambodian version, Duong, is written as ដួង, while other Chinese versions include Dong 董 and Zeng 曾.

  • Origin: Korean, Chinese, Cambodian
  • Meaning: Unknown
  • Pronunciation: THONG
  • Variations: Duong, Dong, Zeng, Tŭng
Rare, Traditional
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Eo Geum 어금

Eo Geum is a very rare, two-syllable Korean surname. It consists of Eo, meaning “fish,” and Geum, meaning “money” or “gold.” In a 2000 census study, only 51 people were recorded with this name.

  • Origin: Chinese, Korean
  • Meaning: Fish, gold
  • Pronunciation: EYO-chum
Rare, Unusual

Eun 은

Eun is a Sino-Korean surname 恩, meaning “kindness, mercy,” and “charity,” or 銀, meaning “silver, money.” Many two-syllable names include Eun, such as Eun-ah, Eun-bi, Eun-chae, and Eun-ha for Korean girl names, and Eun-so, Eun-sung, and Eun-sang for unisex names. Among Korean boy names, there’s Dae-eun, Dong-eun, and Hyung-eun.

  • Origin: Korean,
  • Meaning: Kindness, silver
  • Pronunciation: UUHN
  • Variations: Un, En, Een, Uhan, Eyn, Ehn, Enn
  • Namesakes: Eun Ji-won, a South Korean rapper, singer, actor, and entertainer. Eun Heekyung, a South Korean writer.
Rare, Meaningful

Gae 개

Gae is a rare Romanized version of the Korean Gye, also spelled Kae or Kye. In the 2015 Korean census, 6,641 people were recorded with Gye as a surname and its variants. In Japan, where it’s equally rare, it is written as 前 and pronounced with two syllables.

  • Origin: Japanese, Korean
  • Meaning: Front, before
  • Pronunciation: CHE
  • Variations: Kae, Kay, Keh, Key
Rare, Unusual

Gang Jeon 전강

Gang Jeon is super rare among Korean last names, derived from Chinese characters. Gang means “low and flat ridge of a hill,” while Jeon refers to an “exhibition.”

  • Origin: Korean, Chinese, Japanese
  • Meaning: A low and flat ridge of a hill, exhibition
  • Pronunciation: khang-cheong
Rare, Unusual

Geun 근

Geun is an extremely rare pick among Korean surnames, consisting of a single Hanja symbol, meaning “axe.” In other origins, it’s associated with the German and Jewish Ashkenazic Grün.

  • Origin: Korean
  • Meaning: Axe
  • Pronunciation: CHEWEN
  • Variations: Keun, Gun, Kŭn, Kun
  • Namesakes: Gwon Geun, a South Korean Neo-Confucian scholar and student of Yi Saek, at the beginning of the Joseon Dynasty.
Rare, Unusual

Gok 곡

Gok is a very rare last name in Korea, believed to originate from people from China’s Tang Dynasty. Jang Gok (장곡) is another rare Japanese naturalization of the syllable, with Jang meaning “long” and Gok meaning “valley or gorge.”

  • Origin: Chinese, Korean
  • Meaning: Country, valley, gorge
  • Pronunciation: KHOU
  • Variations: Kok, Koock
Rare, Powerful

Gong 공

Gong is the Mandarin form of an ancient Chinese surname, consisting of many forms, including Gōng, Gòng, and Gǒng. Some families can trace their roots to Gong Gong (共工), an official during the reign of the Yellow Emperor, Huang Di. Gong consists of two characters — 龙, meaning “dragon,” and 共, meaning “altogether, common, shared, or together.” Other Chinese characters of the name mean “to consolidate,” “royal palace,” “duke,” “bow,” and “respectful.”

  • Origin: Chinese
  • Meaning: To show respect for elders or guests
  • Pronunciation: phung
  • Variations: Kong, Kohng, Ghong, Con, Gohng, Goung
  • Namesakes: Gong Min-jeung, a South Korean actress known for films such as “Yourself and Yours” and “Grass.”
  • Popularity: Gong is very popular and ranked the 145th most common surname worldwide in 2014.
Popular, Heroic

Gyeon 견

Gyeon is one of the Korean last names inspired by nature or place names. It’s also considered, in some cases, to be an alternative form of Yéon, from the French Guyon.

  • Origin: Korean
  • Meaning: Capital city, scenery
  • Pronunciation: chieng
  • Variations: Kyeon, Kyun, Kyoun, Gyun, Kyon, Guyon
  • Namesakes: Gyeon Hwon, the king and founder of Hubaekje, one of the Korean Later Three Kingdoms.
  • Popularity: Gyeon is a very rare name worldwide, belonging to 0.0034% of South Koreans.
Rare, Royal

Gwak 곽

Kwak is the common alternative for Gwak, consisting of 52 clans, of which only two hold records. Kwak Sang founded the Ch’ŏngju Kwak family (875–886), while Kwak Kyŏng founded the Hyŏnp’ung clan.

  • Origin: Korean, Chinese
  • Meaning: City walls
  • Pronunciation: KWAH
  • Variations: Kwak, Kwag, Kwack, Gwag, Koak, Koag
  • Namesakes: Gwak Dong-han, a South Korean professional judoka, ranked world No. 1 in Feb 2016. Gwak Kyung-keun, a South Korean football player.
  • Popularity: Gwak is most common in the United States, South Korea, and Thailand.
Traditional, Ancient

Ha 하

The Ha family in Korea consists of two clans, each using a different Chinese character. Ha Kong-jin founded the larger Ha family clan in the 11th-century, using the Chinese 河 character, meaning “river.” Ha Hŭm founded the smaller clan, written as 夏 in Chinese, meaning “summer.”

  • Origin: Korean, Chinese
  • Meaning: Summer, river,
  • Pronunciation: HAAH
  • Variations: Hah, Har, Hwa, Haa, Hagh
  • Namesakes: Ha Dong-kyun, a South Korean R&B, ballad, and rock singer-songwriter. Ha Dong-hoon, a South Korean rapper, show host, and RGB member, best known for starring in the “Non-stop” sitcom.
  • Popularity: Ha was the 321st most common surname worldwide in 2014, most common in Vietnam, South Korea, China, and India.
Popular, Natural
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Hak 학

Hak is very rare among Korean family names, with only 101 people supposedly recorded with the surname. It does occur in other languages, such as Czech (Hák), where it’s used as a nickname for someone with a hooked nose.

  • Origin: Chinese
  • Meaning: Crane
  • Pronunciation: HAH
  • Variations: Haak, Hakka
  • Popularity: Hak belongs to 0.0001% of South Korea’s population.
Rare, Unusual

Ham 함

Some sources suggest Ham consists of 60 Korean clans; however, only the Kangnŭng Ham clan appears to be documented. Ham Kyu is the prominent founding ancestor of the Ham clan, known as a Koryŏ, a 13th-century general who fought against the Mongol invaders. Ham can also be considered a Western surname, derived from the German “ham,” meaning “water meadow” or “meadow in the bend of a river.”

  • Origin: Korean, Chinese, English, German
  • Meaning: Contain
  • Pronunciation: HIHM
  • Variations: Hahm, Harm, Hamm, Haam, Hwam
  • Namesakes: Ham Seok-heon, a significant South Korean figure of the Religious Society of Friends (Quaker), known as the “Gandhi of Korea.”
  • Popularity: Ham is most common in South Korea and Cambodia.
Common, Cool

Hong 홍

Hong has a rich history in Chinese and Mandarin. It’s usually used as an alternative to Gong, from a 27th-century B.C. official, Gong Gong (共工), during the Yellow Emperor’s reign, Huang Di. The founder of the oldest Han clan in Korea, Hong Ch’ŏn-ha, migrated to Koguryŏ, Korea, in the 7th-century.

  • Origin: Chinese, Korean
  • Meaning: Wide, big, vast, great, red
  • Pronunciation: HUNG
  • Variations: Hồng, Houng, Heung, Heong, Whong, Hohng
  • Namesakes: Hong Jin, leader of the Korean Independence movement and 8th president of the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea. Hong Kyung, a South Korean actor known for his role in the 2020 film “Innocence.”
  • Popularity: In 2014, Hong was the 127th most common surname worldwide. It’s common in South and North Korea, China, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
Popular, Royal

Hwang 황

Hwang is the 16th most common last name in South Korea. There are 163 Hwang clans, 11 of which are well-documented. Hwang Nak (Hwang Rak) founded the family, a Chinese Han Dynasty diplomatic ambassador to Vietnam. On his way to Vietnam, he encountered tumultuous seas and decided to await the storm in Uljin County. He then settled in Pyeong-Hae, with three sons who founded their clans.

  • Origin: Chinese, Korean
  • Meaning: Yellow
  • Pronunciation: HUNG
  • Variations: Whang, Whong, Hoang, Huang, Hang, Hawng
  • Namesakes: Hwang Woo-seul-hye, a South Korean actress known for the 2008 “Crush and Blush” black comedy film. Hwang Sung-min, a South Korean footballer.
  • Popularity: In 2014, Hwang was the 523rd most common surname worldwide.
Ancient, Powerful

Hwangbo 황보

Hwangbo consists of two clans — the Yeongcheon Hwangbo clan and the Hwangju Hwangbo clan. In 2000, 9,148 were recorded with the surname. This rare name is also associated with Queen Sinjeong of the Hwangju Hwangbo clan, honored as Grand Lady Myeongbok. She is remembered for her wisdom and deep devotion to raising her children and grandchildren.

  • Origin: Korean
  • Meaning: Unknown
  • Pronunciation: hung-BOH
  • Variations: Whangbo, Hoangbo, Hwangpo, Whoangbo, Howangbo
  • Namesakes: Hwangbo Hye-jeong, a South Korean singer and rapper known for her 2007 solo album “Lady in Black.”
  • Popularity: Hwangbo is predominantly heard in South and North Korea.
Uncommon, Royal

Im 임

In Korean, Im is also written as Lim or Yim, among the top 10 most popular Korean surnames. According to sources, 216 clans belong to the Im family, with the Naju Im family and P’ŏngt’aek Im family having the most records. All Im clans can trace their ancestors to China. During the Tang Dynasty, Im P’algŭp, the founding ancestor of the P’yŏngt’aek Im family, immigrated from China to Korea.

  • Origin: Korean
  • Meaning: Forest, woods, trees
  • Pronunciation: EEHM
  • Variations: Lim, Yim, Rim, Leem, Rhim
  • Namesakes: Danny Im, an American Korean singer and TV host, known for hosting the Mnet America talk show “Danny From L.A.” Im Hyun-sik, a South Korean singer-songwriter and lead singer of the BtoB boy group.
  • Popularity: Im is the most common form in South Korea, with high occurrences also in Myanmar and India.
Popular, Natural

Jang 장

Jang is the Korean version of the Chinese Chang and Zang. In China, Zhang, Zhuang, and Jiag use the same Chinese characters for the Korean Jang. In 2015, 2.05% of South Koreans were recorded with this surname.

  • Origin: Korean, Chinese
  • Meaning: Archer
  • Pronunciation: TSANG
  • Variations: Jhang, Zhang, Jahng, Zang, Jaung
  • Namesakes: Jang Hee-ryung, a South Korean model and actress. Jang Su-won, a South Korean singer and member of the Sechs Kies boy group and duet group J-Walk.
  • Popularity: Jang is the most popular in Korea, China, and the United States.
Popular, Heroic

Jang Gok 장곡

Jang-gok is one of the rarest Korean last names, belonging to fewer than 150 people. It consists of Jang, meaning “long,” and Gok, meaning “valley” or “gorge.”

  • Origin: Korean, Chinese
  • Meaning: Long valley
  • Pronunciation: TSANG-goh
Rare, Unique

Jegal 제갈

Jegal is a compound East Asian surname and the Korean version of the Chinese Zhuge, Vietnamese Gia Cátor, and Japanese Morokuzu. Zhuge is listed 314th in China’s Hundred Family Surnames poem. Jegal is also a habitational name, derived from the Galician or Catalan “regar,” meaning “to water.”

  • Origin: Chinese, Korean
  • Meaning: Many kudzu plants
  • Pronunciation: TSHE-GHIY
  • Variations: Jeagal, Chegal, Jekal, Jaekal, Jeakal
  • Namesakes: Jegal Sam, a South Korean pianist.
Rare, Unique

Jeo 저

Jeo is one of the rarest Korean family names, with just under 800 people recorded with the surname worldwide. It’s predominantly recorded in Indonesia, Korea, Nigeria, the United States, the Philippines, and Malaysia.

  • Origin: Korean
  • Meaning: The residence of a high official
  • Pronunciation: TSHOH
  • Variations: Jeho, Djeo, Jieo
Rare, Unique
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Jeon 전

Joen is another variation of the Korean Chon or Chŏn. Three different Chinese characters are used for Chŏn, with one character consisting of up to 178 clans. One of the sons of the founding king of the Koguryŏ Kingdom took ten servants with him to establish his own kingdom. Chŏn Sŏp, the common ancestor of the Chŏn family name, was one of the ten servants.

  • Origin: Korean, Chinese
  • Meaning: Whole, field, money, handsome
  • Pronunciation: TSHUN
  • Variations: Jun, Chun, Chon, Jeun, Cheon
  • Namesakes: Jeon Bae-soo, a South Korean theatre, film, and TV actor. Jeon Do-yeon, a South Korean actress who won Best Actress at the 60th Cannes Film Festival.
  • Popularity: Jeon is mainly heard in North Korea, the United States, and Japan.
Common, Cool

Jeong 정

Jeong is the Korean version of Chong or Chŏng, consisting of 215 different clans. Three Chinese characters are used for the Korean Chŏng, two of which are very rare. The largest and earliest Chŏng clan originated from Chibaekho, one of the six ruling elders of pre-Shilla Korea, who received the surname from Yuri Isagŭm, the Shilla King.

  • Origin: Korean
  • Meaning: A broad concept of positive emotions
  • Pronunciation: TSHUNG
  • Variations: Jung, Chung, Joung, Chong, Cheong
  • Namesakes: Jeong Jin-woon, a South Korean singer and actor. Jeong Woo-yeong , a South Korean professional footballer.
  • Popularity: Jeong is pretty common, with the highest occurrence in Korea, the United States, and Thailand.
Common, Ancient

Jeup 즙

Jeup originated from Seongjin, Hambuk. The first person to bear this name was Mr Tsuji, a Japanese colonial period soldier whose mother was a Korean.

  • Origin: Korean
  • Meaning: Juice
  • Pronunciation: chehp
  • Variations: Chŭp, Chup
Rare, Unusual

Jin 진

Jin is also spelled Chin in Korea and comes from the Chinese “jin,” meaning “gold.” Jin family immigrants from China acquired different dialects in their respective countries, thus leading to the variety of versions we hear today, such as Chen, Chin, and Chan. The surname originated from the legendary 26th-century B.C. King Shao Hao, the son of the famous Yellow Emperor, Huang Di.

  • Origin: Chinese
  • Meaning: Gold, stingy, enter, promote
  • Pronunciation: CHIN
  • Variations: Jhin, Jean, Gin, Chen, Chin, Jeen
  • Namesakes: Jin Kyung, a South Korean actress who won Best Supporting Actress for the thriller “Cold Eyes.” Jin So-yeon, a South Korean model and actress.
  • Popularity: Jin is a very popular surname throughout East and South Asia, and in 2014, it was the 93rd most common surname worldwide.
Popular, Common

Jue 주

Jue is a Korean variation of the Chinese surname Chu, and it is also spelled Ju or Joo in Korean. Cinnabar is a mercury ore and vermillion red gemstone used in traditional Chinese medicine for its therapeutic properties. It’s also been known to improve vision and reduce insomnia.

  • Origin: Korean
  • Meaning: Cinnabar
  • Pronunciation: CHUW
  • Variations: Ju, Joo, Choo, Jou, Zoo, Zhu
  • Popularity: Jue is uncommon worldwide, with the highest occurrence in Myanmar and the United States.
Rare, Unusual

Kan 간

Kan has multiple origins as a surname. It’s the Mandarin form of 闞, meaning “overlook.” In Czech, it’s derived from Káň and “kanit,” meaning “to slobber or slaver.” In Dutch, it comes from “kan(ne),” meaning “tankard, flagon, or pitcher,” thus referring to a “potter.” Many identify with the Korean version, with Gan Gyun being one of the most prominent ancestors of the largest Korean clan.

  • Origin: Chinese, Korean, Dutch
  • Meaning: Overlook
  • Pronunciation: khang
  • Variations: Gan, Khan, Kahn, Kann
  • Namesakes: Kan Jong-woo, a South Korean singer-songwriter and twin brother of Kan Jong-wook.
  • Popularity: Kan is the most prominent in Japan, Cambodia, and India.
Common, Strong

Kang 강

Kang is the 6th largest family name in Korea. In Chinese, Kang is predominantly written as Kàng 康, which means “peaceful, healthy, and abundant.” When written as Kàng 亢, it means “overbearing, excessive, and high.” Kang originates from Central Asia, making it one of the “Nine Sogdian Surnames.”

  • Origin: Chinese, Korean
  • Meaning: Strong as the river
  • Pronunciation: KHANG
  • Variations: Gang, Khang, Kahng, Kwang, Ghang, Kaing
  • Namesakes: Kang Young-hyun, (or Young K), a South Korean singer, musician, rapper, and member of the Day6 rock band.
  • Popularity: Kang was recorded as the 118th most common surname worldwide, with the highest occurrence in China, Korea, Cambodia, the U.S.A., and Taiwan.
Common, Natural

Ki 기

Ki is also spelled Gi or Kee in Korean. Two Chinese characters are used for the surname Ki, with one being the rarest. Only one Ki clan uses the more common character — the Haengju Ki clan. The clan’s founder, U-Sŏng, is believed to be one of three sons of the 40th generation descendant of Kija, the founder of the ancient Chosŏn Kingdom (194 B.C.).

  • Origin: Korean, Chinese
  • Meaning: Tree wood
  • Pronunciation: KEE
  • Variations: Kee, Key, Kie, Kih, Gee
  • Namesakes: Empress Gi or Ki, a Goryeo-born empress consort of the Yuan Dynasty and primary empress of Toghon Temür (1315–1369). Ki Bo-bae, a South Korean recurve archer and three-time Olympic gold medalist.
  • Popularity: Ki was the 3851st most popular surname in 2014, with the highest occurrence in India and Burkina Faso.
Common, Natural

Kwak 곽

Kwak consists of 52 clans, two of which are well-documented: the Ch’ŏngju Kwak family and the Hyŏnp’ung family. Kwak is one of the most common Chinese surnames, referring to “the wall that surrounds a city.” Kwak is the most common spelling in Korea, followed by Gwak and Kwag.

  • Origin: Korean
  • Meaning: City walls
  • Pronunciation: KWAH
  • Variations: Kwag, Kwack, Gwag, Koak, Koag
  • Namesakes: Kwak Min-jeong, a former South Korean professional figure skater and 2009 Junior national champion. Kwak Hyun-hwa, a South Korean actress and singer.
  • Popularity: Kwak is the 2540th most common surname worldwide, most common in South Korea and the U.S.A.
Common, Strong

Kwon 권

Kwon is also commonly written as Gwon in Korean, consisting of 56 clans. Quon is another rare Korean variant. Kim Shin, a Shilla aristocrat, founded the Andong Kwŏn clan. In 918, he assisted the founder of the Koryŏ Kingdom, Wang Kŏn, to establish his rule in 918. As a thank you, the new king bestowed upon him a new surname: Kwŏn.

  • Origin: Korean, Chinese
  • Meaning: Power, authority
  • Pronunciation: KWON
  • Variations: Gwon, Kwŏn, Kweon, Kwun, Gweon, Kwan
  • Namesakes: Kwon Eun-bin (Eunbin or Eunbeana), a South Korean singer and actress, who debuted with the girl group CLC. Kwon Oh-hyun, a South Korean businessman and former CEO of Samsung.
  • Popularity: Kwon is used mostly in South and North Korea.
Popular, Strong
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Mae 매

Mae is a rare Japanese surname that also occurs in Korea, pronounced with two syllables. It uses the Japanese 真 (ma), meaning “true, reality,” and 慧 (e), meaning “bright; intelligent.” It’s also written as 前, meaning “front” or “before.” In the West, Mae is an English or French first name from the month of May, derived from a Roman goddess, Maia.

  • Origin: Japanese, Korean
  • Meaning: Falcon
  • Pronunciation: MEY
  • Variations: Mai, Mea, Mei, May
  • Namesakes: Audra Mae, an American violinist. Christophe Maé, a French singer.
  • Popularity: Mae is the most common in Japan, followed by the United States and Korea.
Unique, Meaningful

Maeng 맹

Maeng occurs most frequently in South Korea, where it is still considered uncommon. When using alternative Hanja characters, it also refers to “the first month of a season.”

  • Origin: Korean
  • Meaning: Eldest among brothers
  • Pronunciation: mmeng
  • Variations: Meang, Mang, Maing, Meng, Meing
  • Namesakes: Maeng Yu-na, a South Korean singer. Maeng Seong-ung, a South Korean footballer.
Rare, Unique

Mangjeol 망절

Mangjeol is a unique Korean surname from a Japanese surname and mushroom farmer, Mangjul Ilrang. His mother was Korean, and his father was Japanese, and his original Japanese name was Amikiri Ichirō.

  • Origin: Korean, Japanese
  • Meaning: Unknown
  • Pronunciation: MHANG-cheol
  • Variations: Mangjŏl, Mangjul
Unique, Unusual

Min 민

Min was initially only a Korean first name, but became a last name. The 2000 Korean census recorded it as the 47th most common Korean last name. Depending on the Sino-Chinese characters used, 敏 (mǐn) means “quick, clever, or sharp,” and 民 (mín) means “people” or “citizens.”

  • Origin: Chinese, Korean
  • Meaning: Clever, smart
  • Pronunciation: BEEN
  • Variations: Minn, Mihn, Meen, Mheen, Mean
  • Namesakes: Min Young-hwan, a politician and general of the Korean Empire. (1861-1905. Min Yoon-gi (Suga), a South Korean rapper who debuted with the boy band BTS in 2013.
  • Popularity: Min is the 521st most common surname worldwide, with the highest occurrence in China, Myanmar, and Korea.
Common, Cute

Mok 목

Mok is a transcription of several Chinese surnames in Cantonese or Teochew pronunciations. The surname Mok was much more common in the past than it is today. Mok Hyo-gi, a Koryŏ general, was the founding ancestor. The prominent Sach’ŏn Mok clan held significant government positions during the Koryŏ period (AD 918–1392) and the Chosŏn period.

  • Origin: Chinese
  • Meaning: Neck
  • Pronunciation: mhong
  • Variations: Mock, Mog, Mook, Mork, Mouk
  • Popularity: Mok is common throughout East and Southern Asia, with the highest occurrence in Hong Kong, Cambodia, Singapore, and South Korea.
Common, Unusual

Mun 문

Mun, also spelled Moon, is a Korean family name, a single-syllable first name, and an element in Korean first names. Its variation, Moon, is the Korean version of the Chinese “wén” (文), meaning “literature, culture, or writing.” With its wide usage, Mun is considered deeply traditional among Korean girl last names and Korean boy last names.

  • Origin: Korean
  • Meaning: Door
  • Pronunciation: MUHN
  • Variations: Moon, Mon, Moun, Muhn, Moom
  • Namesakes: Eric Mun, a South Korean rapper, singer-songwriter, and actor.
  • Popularity: Mun is the 711th most common surname worldwide, with the highest occurrence in North and South Korea.
Popular, Powerful

Myeong 명

Myeong comes from the Chinese surname Ming, written with the Hanja 明. The most common spelling in Korea is Myung, followed by Myeong.

  • Origin: Korean
  • Meaning: Bright, brilliant
  • Pronunciation: yung
  • Variations: Myŏng, Myung, Myoung, Myong, Moung
  • Namesakes: John Ro Myung, an American bassist and one of the founders of the progressive metal band, Dream Theater. Myung Se-bin, a South Korean actress best known for the TV dramas “Purity” and “Paper Crane.”
Rare, Unique

Na 나

Na is written as 나 (Na) in South Korea and as 라 (Ra) in North Korea. As a name, Na or Ra is derived from the Chinese surname Luo, written as 羅. Of the 46 clans belonging to the Na family, only two are well documented, stemming from a common ancestor, Na Pu. He migrated from China to the Naja area and settled there sometime during the mid-7th century.

  • Origin: Korean
  • Meaning: Gauze, net, catch
  • Pronunciation: NAAH
  • Variations: Ra, La, Nah, Rha, Rah
  • Namesakes: Na Jae-min, a South Korean rapper and member of the band NCT. Na Ry, a South Korean model and winner of Miss Korea 2008.
  • Popularity: Na is an uncommon last name, mostly occurring in India, South Korea, and China.
Common, Traditional

Nam 남

Nam uses one Chinese character and consists of 47 clans, of which four are well-recorded. The founding ancestor, Kim Ch’ung, an emissary from Tang, China, was on his way to Japan when a storm blew his ship northward, forcing it to run aground in Shilla, Korea.

  • Origin: Korean, Chinese
  • Meaning: South
  • Pronunciation: NAHM
  • Variations: Nahm, Nham, Nan, Lam, Narm
  • Namesakes: Nam Sung-yong, a Korean marathon runner and Olympic bronze-medalist. Nam Yoon-su, a South Korean actor and model.
  • Popularity: Nam is most common in South and North Korea, and Vietnam.
Common, Cute

Namgung 남궁

Namgung comes from the Chinese character 南宮. The Namgung family consists of six historical bong-wan clans: Hamyeol, Puyun, Nampyong, Ryongan, Uiryeong, and Chasan. Namgung derives from the Sino-Korean 南 (nam), meaning “south,” and 宮 (gung), meaning “palace, house.”

  • Origin: Korean
  • Meaning: South palace, south house
  • Pronunciation: NAHM-ghung
  • Variations: Namkung, Namkoong, Namgoong, Namgoung, Namkoung
  • Namesakes: Namkoong Min, a South Korean actor known for his notable roles in the films “A Dirty Carnival,” “Remember,” and “My Dearest.”
  • Popularity: Namgung is the most common in South Korea.
Common, Unusual
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Nang 낭

Nang possibly comes from “nang,” a male compound personal name. As a Burmese surname, it’s also derived from Shan Nang — a title of respect and a way of addressing a woman (similar to “mistress” in English).

  • Origin: Burmese, Korean
  • Meaning: Pouch
  • Pronunciation: NHANG
  • Variations: Lang
  • Namesakes: Nang Keo Phimpha (“The Cruel”), the Queen regnant of Lan Xang for a couple of months in 1438 before being deposed and killed.
  • Popularity: Nang is more frequently heard in Myanmar and Cambodia.
Unusual, Traditional

Noe 뇌

As a Korean surname, Noe consists of two Hanja characters: one meaning “thunder” and the other meaning “to request.” Other versions of the name in French, German, English, and Dutch come from the biblical first name Noach or Noah, meaning “comfort” in Hebrew. In the 2000 Korean census, only 80 people identified with the surname meaning “thunder,” and 12 with the other meaning “to request.”

  • Origin: Korean, French
  • Meaning: Thunder, to request
  • Pronunciation: VEH
  • Variations: Noi, Lei, Noé, Noë
  • Namesakes: James A. Noe, an American politician. Jerre Noe, an American computer scientist.
Uncommon, Powerful

Ok 옥

Ok is also a single-syllable Korean first name and an element used in some two-syllable Korean names. Ok is usually written with the Hanja for “jade.” In the 2000 Korean census, 7288 people identified with the Ok family, with most using the Ok spelling.

  • Origin: Korean
  • Meaning: Oak tree, jade
  • Pronunciation: wohg
  • Variations: Ock, Og, Ohk, Oak, Ouk, Oak
  • Namesakes: Ok Kwan-bin, a Korean businessman and independence activist. Ok Ja-yeon, a South Korean activist.
  • Popularity: Ok is an uncommon surname predominantly used in Korea.
Cute, Cool

Ong 옹

Ong is a Hokkien (Southern Min languages) variation of several Chinese surnames. In Singapore, Ong is the fifth most common surname. It’s also an Estonian surname, derived from “õng,” meaning “fishing rod” or “hook.”

  • Origin: Chinese
  • Meaning: Yes
  • Pronunciation: whoung
  • Variations: Ohng, Ohong, Ung, Onge
  • Namesakes: Ong Teng Cheong, the 5th president of Singapore. Ong Seong Woo, (or Ong Seong-wu), a South Korean actor and singer known for starring in the survival reality TV show “Produce 101 Season 2.”
  • Popularity: Ong is the most common in Vietnam, Malaysia, the Phillippines, and Singapore.
Common, Cool

Paeng 팽

Paeng is a rare Korean surname, originating from the common Chinese surname Peng. Peng is listed 47th in the Hundred Family Surnames poem. Peng is famously associated with the legendary, Peng Zu, the “god of longevity,” who apparently lived for 800 years.

  • Origin: Korean
  • Meaning: Unknown
  • Pronunciation: PHENG
  • Variations: P’aeng, Paing, Peang, Pang, Peng, Phang
  • Namesakes: Rafael “Paeng” Villareal Nepomuceno, a Filipino bowler and six-time World Bowling Champion.
  • Popularity: Paeng is mainly used in Korea, Indonesia, and Cambodia.
Uncommon, Unusual

Pi 피

Pi is an old Chinese surname and the Mandarin form of the surname 皮, meaning “fur” or “skin.” It’s also a Catalan topographic or habitational name from “pi,” meaning “pine tree.”

  • Origin: Chinese
  • Meaning: Pine tree, blood
  • Pronunciation: PHEE
  • Variations: Pee, Phee, Phi, Pe, Phie, Pí
  • Namesakes: Pi Rixiu, a Tang Dynasty poet (834 – 883). Pi Hongyan, a Chinese badminton player.
  • Popularity: In 2014, Pi was the 1564th most common surname worldwide, with the highest occurrence in China, India, Myanmar, and South Korea.
Traditional, Common

Pung 풍

Pung is considered rare in Korea. You’ll usually hear the term “pung” used in the popular Chinese game of Mahjong for a set of three. The name also belongs to a small populated island (Pung Island or Pungdo) in the Yellow Sea.

  • Origin: Korean
  • Meaning: Wind
  • Pronunciation: ph-UNG
  • Variations: P’ung, Poong, Poung
  • Namesakes: Buyeo Pung, a prince of Baekje (623–668), one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea. Alice Pung, an Australian writer, editor, and lawyer.
  • Popularity: Pung is the most common in the U.S., Malaysia, and South Korea.
Rare, Cool

Pyeon 편

Pyeon is a super rare name, with very little information available. According to 2014 research statistics (1), only 18 people used the name in the U.S. and 17 in South Korea.

  • Origin: Korean
  • Meaning: Side
  • Pronunciation: ph-EUNG
  • Variations: P’yŏn, Pyun, Pyon, Pyoun, Pyen, Pyeun
Rare, Unusual

Pyo 표

Pyo is a rare Korean name with very few bearers. It comes from the Sino-Korean 表 (pyo), meaning “table, diagram,” and “graph.” In a 2014 study, 31,786 people were recorded with the surname in 2014 (2).

  • Origin: Korean
  • Meaning: Graph
  • Pronunciation: PUH-ur
  • Variations: Phyo, Poy, Peo, Pho, Pou
Rare, Unique

Rang 랑

Rang is extremely rare as a Korean surname, with very little information available. It’s more recognized as a German name, from “rang” for “bend,” referring to someone who lived near a “bend” or “slope” in a thoroughfare.

  • Origin: Korean
  • Meaning: With
  • Pronunciation: LHANG
  • Variations: Lang
Rare, Unique
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Rim 림

Rim is an extremely rare surname, with the highest occurrence in North Korea, followed by Cambodia, Morocco, the U.S., and Bangladesh. In 2014, 378,932 people in North Korea were recorded with the surname.

  • Origin: Korean
  • Meaning: Unknown
  • Pronunciation: LEHM
  • Variations: Rhim, Reem
Rare, Unique

Ryu 류

Ryu is a Korean variation of Yu. It’s also a Japanese first name and surname, meaning “dragon,” “noble,” “prosperous,” or “flow.” Ryu is a keeper if you’re looking for a badass, fire-inspired name.

  • Origin: Korean, Japanese
  • Meaning: Dragon
  • Pronunciation: LEUW
  • Variations: Yoo, Ryoo, Yu, You, Lyu, Ryū
  • Namesakes: Chishū Ryū, a Japanese actor whose career spanned 65 years, 160 films, and 70 TV programs. Ryutaro Nakahara, a Japanese musician and DJ, better known as Ryu.
  • Popularity: Ryu is an extremely rare Korean surname.
Badass, Powerful

Sa 사

Sa is a unique Korean surname associated with three Chinese characters. The family name consists of two distinct clans: one founded by a refugee from Ming, China, who settled in Korea near the end of the Koryŏ period ( AD 918–1392); the other via Kŏch’ang County of Kyŏngsang South Province.

  • Origin: Korean, Chinese
  • Meaning: Buy, four
  • Pronunciation: SAH
  • Variations: Sha, Sah, Sar
  • Popularity: Sa was recorded as the 1436th most common surname worldwide, with the highest usage in India, Cambodia, Vietnam, and South Korea.
Uncommon, Unusual

Sagong 사공

Sagong is a very rare Korean last name. Its highest usage is recorded in South Korea, followed by a small handful of bearers in Malaysia. It also comes from the Greek “sagona,” (“jaw”) as a nickname for someone with a protruding jaw. In Italian, Sagong is a habitational name for someone from Sagona.

  • Origin: Korean, Italian, Greek
  • Meaning: Boatman
  • Pronunciation: SAH-ghom
  • Variations: Sakong, Shakong, Sagoung, Sagung
Uncommon, Unique

Sam 삼

Sam is a very rare Korean surname with various etymologies. It’s mostly heard in Cambodia, where it’s believed to derive from a Khmer word, meaning “alike or similar.” It’s also considered the Cantonese form of certain Chinese first names — 森 meaning “forest” or 琛 meaning “treasure.”

  • Origin: Chinese, Vietnamese
  • Meaning: Full of trees
  • Pronunciation: SUHM
  • Variations: Sâm, Siam, Sham
Cute, Unusual

Sang 상

Sang is a common last name in China but is a rarer Korean last name. It’s also a single-syllable Korean unisex name and an element in two-syllable first names. Sang is the Mandarin form of the Chinese surname 桑, meaning “mulberry.” It’s also a personal name in Vietnamese, meaning “bright, shiny,” and “shaft of light.”

  • Origin: Korean
  • Meaning: Award
  • Pronunciation: SHUNG
  • Variations: Shang, Sahng, Sarng
  • Namesakes: Chang Sang, a South Korean politician and the first nominated female prime minister of South Korea by President Kim Dae-jung. Ku Sand, a South Korean poet.
  • Popularity: Sang is pretty popular worldwide, with the highest usage in China.
Powerful, Meaningful

Seo 서

Seo is a slightly rarer variation of the more common Korean surname, So (or Sŏ). In Sino-Korean 徐 (seo) means “slowly, quietly, or calmly,” while 西 (seo) means “west” or “western.” In Japanese (written as 妹尾), it can mean “younger sister,” “tail,” or “lower slope.”

  • Origin: Korean
  • Meaning: West
  • Pronunciation: SUWH
  • Variations: Sŏ, Suh, Su, Sur, So, Sea
  • Namesakes: Seo Hye-won, a South Korean actress known for her role in the TV series “True Beauty” and “Alchemy of Souls.”
  • Popularity: Seo has the highest recordings in North Korea, followed by Japan, the U.S., and South Korea.
Common, Unique

Seok 석

Seok is also spelled as Suk and is the Korean variation of Sŏk. The Korean surname belonged to 56,500 people, with two different Chinese characters: 石, meaning “stone,” and 昔, meaning “ancient.” As an element in Korean given names, it can mean “evening” (夕), “regret” (惜), “eminent” (碩), and “interpret” (釋).

  • Origin: Korean
  • Meaning: Three
  • Pronunciation: SUWH
  • Variations: Sŏk, Suk, Seog, Sok, Suck, Seuk
  • Namesakes: Suk Jong-yul, a South Korean golfer. Jeannie Suk, an American legal scholar, and the first Asian American woman awarded tenure at Harvard Law School.
Rare, Cool

Seol 설

Seol is derived from the Sino-Korean 薛 (seol), which refers to a type of marsh grass, or 偰 (seol), meaning “clear.” This rare last name can be written with two different Hanja — malgeundaessuk seol (薛), the more common one, over malgeul seol (偰).

  • Origin: Korean
  • Meaning: New year
  • Pronunciation: SUIHL
  • Variations: Sul, Seul, Sol, Sel, Seal
  • Namesakes: Seol Sa, or Wŏnhyo, a Silla Dynasty monk, one of the most prominent philosophers in East Asian and Korean Buddhism (617 – 686).
  • Popularity: Seol is used most frequently in America and South Korea, but it still belongs to very few people.
Rare, Unique

Seomun 서문

Seomun is an incredibly rare Korean family name with very little information available. According to some records, only 52 people in Korea identify with the name (3).

  • Origin: Korean
  • Meaning: Introduction
  • Pronunciation: SAH-mhun
  • Variations: Seomoon, Suhmoon, Seamoon, Sumoon, Semun
Rare, Unique
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Seon 선

Seon is a rare Korean variation of Sŏk. It’s also used as an element in two-syllable Korean given names and as a single-syllable first name. It’s written with either of two Hanja, with one meaning “to announce” (宣) and the other meaning “first” (先).

  • Origin: Korean
  • Meaning: Line, announce
  • Pronunciation: SUHN
  • Variations: Sun, Son, Shun, Sen, Suhn
Rare, Unusual

Seong 성

Seong, also spelled as Sung or Song, is a Chinese variation of Seung. This surname uses one Hanja character, which also means “succeed” or “accomplish.”

  • Origin: Korean
  • Meaning: Castle, succeed
  • Pronunciation: SUUNG
  • Variations: Sŏng, Sung, Soung, Seoung, Seung, Song
  • Namesakes: Seong Hon, a Joseon Dynasty poet, politician, and philosopher. Seong Sung Jae-gi, a South Korean men’s activist, who founded Man of Korea.
  • Popularity: Seong is rare worldwide, with the highest usage in Malaysia, followed by the U.S.A. and South Korea.
Uncommon, Unique

So Bong 소봉

So Bong is a super rare Korean last name, with only 18 people recorded with the name in Korea. It consists of two syllables: 소, meaning “small,” and 봉, meaning “peak.”

  • Origin: Korean
  • Meaning: Small peak
  • Pronunciation: suh-BOHNG
Rare, Traditional

Son 손

Son is also spelled as Sohn or Shon in Korea and is a transliteration of the Chinese surname Sun. One only Chinese character, 孫, is used for the name, consisting of about 118 clans. One of the six pre-Shilla elders, Kuryema (俱 禮馬), is the legendary founder known for making Pak Hyŏkkŏse (朴 赫居世) the first king of Shilla.

  • Origin: Korean, Chinese
  • Meaning: Grandson
  • Pronunciation: SOOHN
  • Variations: Son, Sohn, Shon, Sohn, Sun, Soun, Soon
  • Namesakes: Sohn Kee-chung, a Korean long-distance runner and the first ethnic Korean medalist at the Olympics. Son Dam-bi, a South Korean singer and actress.
  • Popularity: Son was the 800th most common surname worldwide in 2014, with the highest recorded in Vietnam.
Common, Ancient

Tae 태

The Tae surname is written with only one Hanja (太), meaning “great.” They are considered a noble clan and direct descendants of the royal Balhae Dynasty.

  • Origin: Korean
  • Meaning: Great
  • Pronunciation: TEH
  • Variations: Dai, Tai, Tea, Te, Thae
  • Namesakes: Thae Byong-ryol, a North Korean general of the Korean People’s Army. Tae Hyun-sil, a South Korean actress.
  • Popularity: Tae is uncommon, with the highest usage in South Korea, Cambodia, and Indonesia.
Royal, Meaningful

Tak 탁

Tak has several origins and meanings. Only one Korean clan is associated with Tak, through T’ak Chi-yŏp — the founding ancestor who was a Koryŏ Kingdom scholar. He settled in the Kwangju area of Chŏlla South Province. In Dutch, Tak comes from “tak” meaning “tree branch.” In India, it’s also spelled Taak (टाक) and belongs to a gotra (lineage) of the Prajapati Hindu caste.

  • Origin: Korean, Dutch
  • Meaning: Lofty, outstanding
  • Pronunciation: tah
  • Variations: T’ak, Tark, Tag, Tack, Tahk, Thak
  • Popularity: Tak is the most common in India and South Korea.
Traditional, Meaningful

U 우

U is a Korean variation of Yu and the Chinese Wu. It’s also Burmese when used as a respectful title and form of address for an adult or respected man (like Mister or Sir). The common alternative, Woo, means “protection” or “rain.” In Burmese, U literally means “uncle” (“u-lay” or “u-gyi”).

  • Origin: Korean
  • Meaning: Right
  • Pronunciation: WHOO
  • Variations: Woo, Wu, Wo, Ou, Uh
  • Namesakes: U Tak, a Korean Confucian scholar of the Goryeo Dynasty. U Tong-chuk, a North Korean politician.
  • Popularity: U was the 1802nd most popular surname worldwide, with the highest usage in South Korea.
Rare, Ancient

Wi 위

Wi is mostly of Japanese origin, written as 井伊, meaning “well” and “that.” Wi belongs to one of Japan’s great daimyō families, initially based in Tōtōmi.

  • Origin: Japanese, Korean
  • Meaning: Stomach
  • Pronunciation: WEE
  • Variations: Wee, We, Wie, Wei, Wui
  • Popularity: Wi is the most popular in South Korea, followed by Taiwan and Indonesia.
Uncommon, Unusual

Won 원

Won uses different Chinese characters. Wŏn Kyŏng is believed to be the founder of the Wŏn clan, although some dispute this. He was a Tang China scholar sent to Shilla in the 7th century. Wŏnju Wŏn, the other character, only has one clan.

  • Origin: Korean
  • Meaning: One
  • Pronunciation: WHOHN
  • Variations: Wŏn, Weon, Woon, One, Wone, Woun, Wŏn
  • Namesakes: Won Woo-young, a South Korean sabre fencer, Olympic gold medalist, and the first Asian fencer to win gold in the men’s sabre event at the World Championships.
  • Popularity: Won is most common in South Korea, followed by the United States, Singapore, and Malaysia.
Uncommon, Traditional

Wang 왕

Wang is listed 8th in the Hundred Family Surnames poem and is the most common surname in Asia, with over 107 million bearers. Some sources say there are fifteen Wang clans, but only two are identified: the Kaesŏng Wang clan and the Chenam Wang clan. During the Koryŏ period (918–1392), the Korean peninsula was ruled by the Kaesŏng Wang clan (who originated in China) for nearly five hundred years.

  • Origin: Chinese, Korean
  • Meaning: King
  • Pronunciation: WHANG
  • Variations: Whang, Woang, Ywang, Yang, Whyang
  • Namesakes: Wang Yiren, a Chinese singer and member of the South Korean girl group, Everglow. Jackson Wang, a Chinese member of the boy group GOT7.
  • Popularity: Wang was the No.1 most common surname in the world in 2014 (4).
Popular, Royalty
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Yang 양

Yang uses four Chinese characters and has eight clans. Yang is derived from the Chinese 杨 (yáng), meaning “willow, poplar,” or “aspen.” The founding ancestor of the Ch’ŏngju Yang clan was Chinese and remained in Korea after escorting Koryŏ, King Kongmin’s future queen, to Korea.

  • Origin: Korean
  • Meaning: Sheep, poplar tree
  • Pronunciation: YUNG
  • Variations: Ryang, Yaung, Young, Yahng, Yhang
  • Namesakes: Yang Yong-eun, a South Korean golfer and winner of the 2009 PGA Championship. Yang Seung-ho, a South Korean singer and leader of the boy group MBLAQ.
  • Popularity: Yang is a super popular last name, last ranked 7th worldwide in 2014.
Popular, Natural

Yeo 여

Yeo is a Korean variant of Yŏ. In English, it’s a topographical name from southwestern Middle English, taken from “ya,” “yo,” or “yeo,” meaning “river or stream.”

  • Origin: Chinese, Korean
  • Meaning: Female
  • Pronunciation: YHUR
  • Variations: Yuh, Yo, Yu, Yea, Yeu
  • Namesakes: Vivien Yeo, a Malaysian Chinese actress and businesswoman. Danny Yeo, a Singaporean TV host.
Uncommon, Unusual

Yeom 염

Yeom is one of the less commonly heard Korean last names. Only 323 bearers were recorded in the United States in 2014, and 264 in South Korea.

  • Origin: Korean
  • Meaning: Salt
  • Pronunciation: YHUM
  • Variations: Yum, Youm, Yeum, Yom, Yeoum
  • Namesakes: Yeom Shin-Bi, King Gongmin’s wife and royal consort (about 1350–1387). Yum Jung-ah, a South Korean beauty pageant title holder and actress.
Uncommon, Unique

Yeon 연

Yeon is uncommon, also spelled as Youn, which could correspond with the Chinese surnames Yan (燕, 延) or Lian (連). Yeon has the highest occurrence in the U.S. and South Korea.

  • Origin: Korean
  • Meaning: Kite
  • Pronunciation: YHUN
  • Variations: Youn, Yun, Yon, Yeun, Yeoun
  • Namesakes: Yeon Gaesomun, a powerful military dictator during the Goguryeo Kingdom (one of Korea’s ancient Three Kingdoms). Yeon Joon-seok, a South Korean actor known for the 2022 TV series “Bad Prosecutor.”
Cute, Unique

Yeop 엽

Yeop is one of the rarest Korean family names, with only three known bearers recorded in South Korea in 2014. The highest volume (233) was recorded in Malaysia. Interestingly, the Yeopjeon was a Korean brass coin first issued in 1678.

  • Origin: Korean
  • Meaning: Lobe
  • Pronunciation: YUW
  • Variations: Yub, Yup, Yop, Youb, Yeb
Rare, Unusual

Yi 이

Yi is the second most common last name in Korea, belonging to 14.7% of the population in 2015. Yi is an alternate version of the Korean last name, Lee, used by most Koreans. When using the Chinese character, 李, it means “plum.” Other Chinese meanings include “amiable,” “easy,” “benefit,” “justice,” and “ceremony.”

  • Origin: Korean
  • Meaning: This, plum
  • Pronunciation: YHEE
  • Variations: Lee, I, Ee, I, Ri, Rhee, Rhie, Reeh
  • Namesakes: Yi Yuanji, a painter from the Northern Song Dynasty, famous for his realistic animal paintings. Yi Jianlian, a Chinese historian, author, and TV personality.
  • Popularity: Yi is most commonly used in China, and in 2014, it ranked the 217th most popular last name worldwide.
Popular, Natural

Yong 용

Yong uses two Chinese characters. One clan originates from prehistoric tribal Korea, where tribes usually assumed animal names. It’s believed that the Yong surname (meaning “dragon”) came into existence when the tiger tribe wanted to avoid being named after a man-eating beast.

  • Origin: Korean
  • Meaning: Dragon
  • Pronunciation: yhung
  • Variations: Young, Lyong, Yung, Ryong, Yeong
  • Namesakes: Yong Jun-hyung, a South Korean rapper. Yong Hye-in, a South Korean activist and leader of the Basic Income Party.
  • Popularity: Yong is considered common, ranked the 1631st most common last name worldwide, in 2014.
Powerful, Badass

Yu 유

Yu uses four Chinese characters, and sources show it consists of at least 230 clans in Korea. Munhwa Yu, the largest of the Yu clans, was founded by Ch’a Tal. He famously assisted Wang Kŏn in establishing the Koryŏ Kingdom. The Andong Kwŏn and Munhwa Yu clans possess one of Korea’s oldest clan genealogies. Yu is also a very popular surname in mainland China, listed 82nd in the Hundred Family Surnames poem.

  • Origin: Chinese, Korean
  • Meaning: You
  • Pronunciation: YUW
  • Variations: Yoo, You, Ryu, Ryoo, Lyu
  • Namesakes: Yu Wenxia, a Chinese actress, TV host, singer, and model, who won Miss World in 2012.
  • Popularity: Yu is a very popular last name in Korea and China. In 2014, it was the 23rd most popular surname worldwide.
Popular, Ancient

Yuk 육

Yuk is rare among Korean family names. It belonged to Yuk Young-soo, the wife of South Korea’s 3rd president, Park Chung-hee. She was also the mother of the 11th president, Park Geun-hye.

  • Origin: Korean
  • Meaning: Six
  • Pronunciation: YUW
  • Variations: Yook, Youk, Yug, Yuck, Ryuk
  • Namesakes: Yuk Ji-dam, a South Korean rapper. Yook Sung-jae, a South Korean rapper and actor, and member of the boy band BtoB.
  • Popularity: Yuk has the highest occurrence in South Korea.
Uncommon, Traditional

Yun 윤

Yun only uses one Chinese character; of the 149 clans, only ten are well-documented. P’ap’yŏng, the largest clan, descended from Shin Tal. According to legend, an old woman from P’ap’yŏng, Yun On, saw a rainbow over a lotus pond. When she looked, she found a boy in a box, with scales under his arms and seven dark birthmarks on his body. She gave him her name, Yun, and raised him as her own. Yun is also the Mandarin version of the surname 雲, meaning “could.”

  • Origin: Korean
  • Meaning: Governor
  • Pronunciation: yoon
  • Variations: Yoon, Youn, Yune, Yeun, Yon
  • Namesakes: Yun Bong-gil, a South Korean independence activist. Yun Posun, a South Korean activist, and second president of South Korea.
  • Popularity: Yun is pretty common in Korea and China.
Common, Heroic
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Korean Surnames FAQs

How Do You Choose a Korean Last Name?

When babies are born, they are usually given their father’s last name. In some rare cases, they may receive their mother’s last name. Traditionally, women keep their own surnames when they marry, not taking their husband’s name. In Korean premodern patriarchal society, family heritage and identities are highly valuable.

What Is the Rarest Last Name in Korea?

According to the 2015 Korean survey, Deungjeong is the rarest last name in South Korea. No data is available for North Korea. Other very rare Korean last names include So Bong (소봉), Jeo (저), Sam (샘), Gang Jeon (전강), Eo Geum (어금), Jang Gok (장곡), Chon (촌), Gae (개), Jeup (즙), Hak (학), Noe (뇌), and Geun (근).

What Is the Oldest Surname in Korea?

Han is the oldest surname in Korea (Korean: 한; Hanja: 韓), meaning “king,” “country,” “kingdom,” and “Korean people.” This surname can be traced back according to historical genealogies following patrilineal clans or lineages, otherwise known as “bon-gwan” in Korean. According to these records, the Cheongju Han clan is one of the oldest clans using this surname, founded by Hanlan(한란).

Which Korean Last Names Are Royal?

Kim is the most royal of Korean surnames, also listed as the most popular and common surname in South Korea. Kim originated from an ancient ruling family that rose to prominence and ruled the Sila Kingdom for 586 years. In the 2015 Korean statistical survey, 10.69 million individuals had the surname in Korea, consisting of 21.5% of the population. This means that for every four Koreans, one would be named Kim! Other Korean last names associated with royalty include Lee (이), Park (박), Cho/Jo (조), and Choi (최).

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About the Author

Sarah-Lynn Robertson

Sarah-Lynn Robertson is a freelance writer from the sunny and colorful country of South Africa. She writes for various websites and blogs on a wide range of topics and also dabbles in some copywriting from time to time. As a qualified environmental researcher, Sarah found she loved freelance writing way more interesting than sifting through endless spreadsheets of data for days on end. When she isn’t writing, Sarah loves reading, running, camping, and fishing with her husband, and taking her fluffy, four-legged friend Chester for a stroll or two.