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Revised RomanizationBon-gwan

Bon-gwan (or Bongwan) is the concept of clan in Korea, which is used to distinguish clans that happen to share the same family name (clan name). Since Korea has been traditionally a Confucian country, this clan system is similar to ancient Chinese distinction of clan names or xing (姓) and lineage names or shi (氏). The bong-wan system identifies descent groups by geographic place of origin.[1]

A Korean clan is a group of people that share the same paternal ancestor and is indicated by the combination of a bong-wan and a family name (clan name). However, a bon-gwan is not treated as a part of a Korean person's name.[citation needed] The bon-gwan and the family name are passed on from a father to his children, thus ensuring that person in the same paternal lineage sharing 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 [ko] clan and the Gimhae Heo [ko] clan share Suro of Geumgwan Gaya as their common paternal ancestor, though such cases are exceptional.

According to the population and housing census of 2000 conducted by the South Korean government, there are a total of 286 surnames and 4,179 clans.[2]

Restrictions on marriage and adoption[edit]

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. Until 1997, this was also the law, but this was ruled as unconstitutional and now DNA tests have superseded bon-gwan as an indication of one's lineage.

When adopting a child, the adoptive father and the adopted child must share the same combination of the bon-gwan and the family name.[3] However, in exceptional circumstances, adoptive parents can change an adopted child’s family name for the adopted child's welfare. In this case, the adoptive parents must visit a family court to request permission to change the family name.


English Hangul Hanja 2015 South Korean population
Gimhae Kim clan 김해 김씨Descended from Suro of Gaya. After the fall of Gaya in 562, many Gaya aristocrats were incorporated into Silla. 金海 金氏
Miryang Park clan 밀양 박씨Descended from Hyeokgeose of Silla (BC 57~936). All the Park clans in Korea trace their ancestry back to Hyeokgeose of Silla. 密陽 朴氏
Jeonju Yi clan 전주 이씨Descended from Yi Han of Silla. 全州 李氏
Gyeongju Kim clan 경주 김씨Descended from Gim Alji of Silla 慶州 金氏
Gyeongju Yi clan 경주 이씨 慶州 李氏
Jinju Kang clan 진주 강씨 晉州 姜氏
Gyeongju Choi clan 경주 최씨 慶州 崔氏
Gwangsan Kim clan 광산 김씨 光山 金氏
Papyeong Yoon clan 파평 윤씨 坡平尹氏
Cheongju Han clan 청주 한씨 淸州 韓氏
Andong Gwon clan 안동 권씨 安東 權氏
Indong Jang clan 인동 장씨 仁同 張氏
Pyeongsan Shin clan 평산 신씨 平山申氏
Sunheung Ahn clan 순흥 안씨 順興 安氏
Andong Kim clan 안동 김씨 安東 金氏
Namyang Hong clan 남양 홍씨 南陽 洪氏
Dongnae Jeong clan 동래 정씨 東萊 鄭氏
Haeju Oh clan 해주 오씨 海州 吳氏
Jeonju Choi clan 전주 최씨 全州 崔氏
Nampyeong Moon clan 남평 문씨 南平 文氏
Dalseong Seo clan 달성 서씨 達城 徐氏
Changnyeong Jo clan 창녕 조씨 昌寧 曺氏
Suwon Baek clan 수원 백씨 水原 白氏
Gyeongju Jeong clan 경주 정씨 慶州 鄭氏
Hanyang Jo clan 한양 조씨 漢陽 趙氏
Yeoheung Min clan 여흥 민씨 驪興 閔氏
Deoksu Yi clan 덕수 이씨 德水 李氏
Yeoyang Jin clan 여양 진씨 驪陽 陳氏

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Duncan, John B. (28 April 2015). The Origins of the Choson Dynasty. University of Washington Press. p. 31. ISBN 978-0-295-80533-7.
  2. ^ "2000 인구주택총조사 성씨 및 본관 집계결과". 통계청 (in Korean). Statistics Korea. Retrieved 20 October 2017.[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ Law Agency. "The law of Family name and Bon-gwan(adoptive child)". (in Korean). Retrieved 2018-04-14.
  4. ^ "Yeoheung Min clan", Wikipedia, 2021-03-11, retrieved 2021-03-16

External links[edit]