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Bon-gwan is the concept of clan in Korea, which is used to distinguish clans that happen to share a same family name (clan name). Since Korea has been traditionally a Buddhist country, this clan system is cognate with Gotra in Sanskrit texts and shares most features.
A Korean clan is a group of people that share the same paternal ancestor and is indicated by the combination of a bon-gwan and a family name (clan name). Subsequently, a bon-gwan is treated as though a part of a Korean person's name. The bon-gwan and the family name are inherited from a father to his children, thus ensuring that persons in the same paternal lineage share the same combination of the bon-gwan and the family name. A bon-gwan does not change by marriage or adoption.
Bon-gwan are used to distinguish different lineages that bear the same family name. For example, the Gyeongju Kim and the Gimhae Kim are considered different clans, even though they happen to share the same family name Kim. In this case, Gyeongju and Gimhae are the respective bon-gwan of these clans.
Different family names sharing the same bon-gwan sometimes trace their origin to a common paternal ancestor, e.g. the Gimhae Kim clan and the Gimhae Heo clan share Suro of Geumgwan Gaya as their common paternal ancestor, though such case is exceptional.
Restriction on marriage and adoption
Traditionally, a man and a woman in the same clan could not marry, so the combination of the bon-gwan and the family name of a husband had to differ from that of a wife. It was even prohibited by law to marry a person with the same clan name until that was ruled unconstitutional in 1997, when DNA tests superseded bong-gwan as an indication of one's lineage.
On the other hand, when adopting a child, the adoptive father and the adoptive child must belong to the same clan. Therefore, they must share the same combination of the bon-gwan and the family name. Parents used to prefer children from the same clan, but recently the clan or family name is no longer a deciding factor in adoption since it is now legal to adopt a child from a different clan and then to change the child's family name.
Full list of survived Bon-gwan
It is possible for Korean nationals and Korean descendants to look up their own bon-gwan. List of survived and newly created bon-gwan can be viewed in the following links:
- List of Korean bon-gwan (available only in Korean language)
- List of Korean bon-gwan (In Russian and Korean languages)
- 정복규의 한국 성씨를 찾아서 -박근혜 후보와 고령박씨 (in Korean). Shina Ilbo. 2012-12-11. Retrieved 2013-10-21.