Surnames are a great way to get connected to the family that came before us. Korean last names provide a great insight into a family’s defining characteristics, the places they lived near, or their occupations. Like Japanese last names, these names stem from Chinese characters converted into a different script. Modern Korean names are now written in Hangul, which means ‘great script’ in Korean.
Part of what makes Korean names special is their unique naming structure. It’s different than other cultures because their names are typically three syllables long and the surname is written first. The reason the last name comes first is to emphasize the importance of family. It shows that they should always come before the individual. In Korean culture, relationships and loved ones are integral to their history and society, so much so that it’s represented in their naming structure. Personal names, which are also referred to as first names, follow after the surname. People are usually given two first names in South Korean culture, and middle names aren’t part of the naming culture. Korean culture is also rooted in other positive qualities like togetherness, harmony, tenacity, toughness, adaptability, nationalism, and education.
The most popular Korean last names are monosyllabic — like Kim, Lee, and Park — which together make up the names of about half the Korean ethnic population. And if you’re wondering what the top Korean last names are and their meanings, you’re not alone. According to the latest search information available, that query is searched for nearly 19,000 times a month. We’ve compiled a list of these and others, complete with their Hangul characters, (which is the Korean phonetic alphabet) so that you know the possible meaning behind them.
If you’re interested in the last names and meanings of other countries, check out our package on last names from around the world. See how many you recognize: Irish, French, Russian, Spanish, Mexican, Brazilian, Portuguese, Italian, and African last names, among others.
Meaning: Metal, gold, or iron.
Meaning: Plum tree.
Meaning: Tube or pipe.
Meaning: Just or only.
Meaning: Crane or learning.
Meaning: Tablet, chisel, or quiet.
Meaning: Amount, sheet, or positive.
Meaning: Part, wealth, or fortune.
Meaning: Within, interior or back.
Meaning: Camp, true, lost, or a sign of the dragon.
Meaning: Plate, board, or edition.
Meaning: Party, justice, or sugar.
Meaning: Succeed or accomplish.
Meaning: Willow tree.
Meaning: Bell, species, or end.
Meaning: Man or south.
Meaning: Second, candle, or beginning.
Meaning: Hawk or falcon.
Meaning: Yellow or reed.
Meaning: Empty, void, or white.
Meaning: Cloud or luck.
Meaning: The name of the Pae clan.
Meaning: After the Mokch’ŏn Ma clan.
Meaning: City walls.
Meaning: A pear.
Meaning: The color white.
Meaning: Prosperous or flourishing.
Meaning: Vermilion red, which is a bright red pigment made from mercury sulfide.
Meaning: Brave or fierce.
Meaning: Dipper or unit of measure. Derived from the Chinese word dou.
Meaning: Excitable or impatient.
Meaning: Limb or Branch.
Meaning: Weighing scales seller.
Meaning: Mountain, pinnacle, or a governor who oversees the land or mountain.
Meaning: The number four.
Meaning: Felicitous omen or auspicious.
Meaning: Felicitous omen, auspicious; open up, unfold, comfortable, or easy.
Meaning: Stone or tin.
Meaning: Completed, finished, or succeeded.
Meaning: Meritorious deed or rank.
Meaning: Begin or start.
Meaning: This surname is originally from Japan.
Meaning: A common last name for people from the Tang Dynasty of China.
Meaning: Archer or bowyer.
Hangul: 어떤 것
Meaning: Gentle or quiet.
Meaning: Summer or grand.
Meaning: Country or leader.
Meaning: To permit or advocate.
Meaning: Brave or fierce.
Meaning: Expand or great.
Meaning: Profound or mysterious.
Meaning: Stamp or India.
Meaning: Will or ambition.
Meaning: An ancient city in Shanxi province.