Kim (Korean surname)

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Family name
Pronunciation Kim, Gim
Meaning gold
Region of origin Korea
Language(s) of origin Korean
Revised Romanization Gim
McCune–Reischauer Kim

Kim (occasionally romanized as Gim) is the most common surname in the Korean Peninsula and among the Korean diaspora. The hanja (Chinese character) for Kim is , meaning "gold". The Korean pronunciation varies: as a common noun meaning "gold", it is pronounced [kɯm] (, geum) but, as a surname or in place names,[1] it is pronounced [kim] (, gim). Kim is the most common last name in Korea.

In Japan, some Koreans use the kanji either by itself or in combination with other characters. This is sometimes read as Kin and sometimes as Kane- (e.g. Kaneda, Kanemoto) in kun'yomi, but not every Japanese or Chinese person who bears such a name is of Korean descent. The modern Mandarin pronunciation for "金" is jīn but the modern Cantonese is "gam", which is more similar to the Korean and Middle Chinese pronunciation.


21.6% of Korean people bear the family name Kim
  Kim, Gim, Ghim
  Lee, Yi, Rhee, Yie, Jee
  Park, Pak
  Choi, Choe
  Jung, Jeong, Chung, Cheong

As with most other Korean family names, there are many Kim clans, known in Korean as bon-gwan (본관, 本貫), each of which consists of individual Kim families. Most Kims belong to one of a few very large clans. Even within each clan, people in different families are not related to each other. These distinctions are important, since Korean law used to prohibit intermarriage in the same clan, no matter how remote the relationship; now, however, only those in a relationship of second cousins or closer are prohibited from marrying.

As with other Korean family names, the Kim clans are distinguished by the place from which they claim to originate. A very large number of distinct Kim clans exist, besides those listed here. The 2000 South Korean census listed 348 extant Kim lineages.[2]

According to the journalist's research, "Kim" was originally "Moyong", a clan of Xiongnu. Some research states that the Old Kims are descended from the Great Huns: north Asian people, including Mongols, Turkic and Koreans. Linguists say that Korean is derived from the Altaic. Some historians believe that the Huns originated from the Xiongnu.


The Uiseong Kim (Hangul: 의성김씨, Hanja: 義城金氏) Clan traces its lineage back to the last prince of Silla, who later became a Monk. Kim Il-ji(김일지) was a prince of Hünnü/Huns/Xiongnu.

Gimhae (Kimhae)[edit]

According to a story recorded only in the Samguk Yusa, in AD 48, Princess Heo Hwang-ok travelled from a country called "Ayuda" to Korea, where she married King Suro of Geumgwan Gaya and gave birth to 10 children, thus starting the Kim dynasty of Geumgwan Gaya, the capital of which was in present-day Goryeong County. The country of Ayuda is often identified with Ayodhya in India.[3]

Famous ancient members of this clan, aside from the kings of Geumgwan Gaya, include the Silla general Kim Yu-shin. In the Unified Silla period, members of the Gimhae Kim family were admitted to all but the highest level of the Silla bone rank system.

This clan is by far the most populous of all Korean clans. The 2000 South Korean census found it to add up more than four million people.

Distribution of ancestral lines of the Kim surname. (1988)


The Gyeongju Kims (Hangul: 경주김씨, Hanja: 慶州金氏) trace their descent from the ruling family of Silla. The founder of this clan is said to have been Kim Alji, an orphan adopted by King Talhae of Silla in the 1st century AD. Alji's seventh-generation descendant was the first member of the clan to take the throne, as King Michu of Silla in the year 262.

This clan is also extremely populous. In the South Korean census of 2000, more than 1.7 million citizens claimed to be Gyeongju Kims.


The Nagan Kim (Hangul: 낙안김씨, Hanja: 樂安金氏) clan is extremely rare. Its progenitor (Hangul: 김수징, Hanja: 金粹澄) was a descendant of the last king of Silla and established their ancestral home in Suncheon. In the South Korean census of 2000, less than 10,000 citizens claimed to be Nagan Kims.


The Hamchang Kims (Hangul: 함창김씨, Hanja: 咸昌金氏) trace their origin to the founder of the little-known Gaya state of Goryeong Gaya. His alleged tomb, rediscovered in the 16th century, is still preserved by the modern-day members of the clan. This clan numbered only 26,300 members in the 2000 South Korean census.


There are two Andong Kim clans (Hangul: 안동김씨, Hanja: 安東金氏) distinguished as Gu (구,舊) and Shin (신,新) that have 2 separate progenitors.

Some of the notable Gu Andong Kim clan members were General Kim Si-min and Prime Minister Kim Sa-hyeong, who was involved with the Kangnido map.

Shin Andong Kim clan was one of the powerful clans that dominated the later part of the Joseon Dynasty. One of the most powerful members from the clan was the Honorable Kim Jo-sun, who was the father-in-law to King Sunjo. Kim Jo-sun's daughter was Queen Sunwon.


Gwangsan Kim clan (Kwangsan Kim clan) (Hangul: 광산김씨, Hanja: 光山金氏[4]) was one of the most prominent clans during the Joseon Dynasty. The members of the Gwangsan Kim clan are the descendants of Heung Gwang (흥광, 興光), who was the third prince of King Sinmu of Silla, the 45th monarch of the Silla Dynasty.


Yaseong clan (Hangul: 야성김씨, Hanja: 野城金氏) is from Yeongdeok. Yaseong means "City in the wilderness"(city name Yaseong was later changed to Yeongdeok) and dates its origins back to the Silla Dynasty.


Cheongpung Kim clan (Hangul: 청풍김씨, Hanja: 淸風金氏) was one of the aristocratic families during the Joseon Dynasty. Two queens were from this clan during that period. Several members of the clan also became prime ministers.


Yeonan Kim clan (Hangul: 연안김씨, Hanja: 延安金氏) was an aristocratic family clan that had members in high government positions during the Joseon Dynasty. Six members of the clan were prime ministers.


Gangneung Kim clan (Hangul: 강릉김씨, Hanja: 江陵金氏) originated from Gangneung, Gangwondo, South Korea. The progenitor was Kim Ju-won (김주원, 金周元) who was a descendant of King Taejong Muyeol the Great of Silla.


Sangsan Kim clan (Hangul: 상산김씨, Hanja: 商山金氏) originated from Sangju in North Gyeongsang Province, South Korea. The progenitor was Kim Su (김수, 金需) and the clan had members that participated in the government of Joseon.


Ulsan Kim clan (Hangul: 울산김씨, Hanja:蔚山金氏) originated from Ulsan in South Korea. One of the members of this clan, Kim Inhu, was one of the 18 Sages of Korea and honored as a Munmyo Bae-hyang, (문묘배향, 文廟配享).


Seoheung Kim clan (Hangul: 서흥김씨, Hanja: 瑞興金氏) was one of the smaller Kim clans during the Joseon Dynasty. The progenitor was Kim Bo (김보, 金寶) and one of the members was Kim Gwoeng-pil (김굉필, 金宏弼), who was one of the 18 Sages of Korea and honored as Munmyo Bae-hyang, (문묘배향, 文廟配享).


Wonju Kim clan (Hangul: 원주김씨, Hanja: 原州金氏) might be one of the smallest Kim clans during the Joseon Dynasty. They had two members that became prime ministers during that period.

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ For example, in the city names Gimhae (김해, 金海) and Gimpo (김포, 金浦).
  2. ^ "성씨, 본관별 가구 및 인구". Retrieved 2006-10-04.  (Korean)[dead link]
  3. ^[dead link] [clarification needed]
  4. ^ 조선왕조실록,순종실록부록,순종 18년8월21일. Joseon Annals, Aug. 21, 1925. No. 1

External links[edit]