A Korean name consists of a family name followed by a given name, as used by the Korean people in both South Korea and North Korea. In the Korean language, ireum or seongmyeong usually refers to the family name (seong) and given name (ireum in a narrow sense) together.
이름 / 姓名
|Revised Romanization||ireum /|
|McCune–Reischauer||irŭm / sŏngmyŏng|
Traditional Korean family names typically consist of only one syllable. There is no middle name in the English language sense. Many Koreans have their given names made of a generational name syllable and an individually distinct syllable, though this practice is declining in the younger generations. The generational name syllable is shared by siblings in North Korea, and by all members of the same generation of an extended family in South Korea. Married men and women keep their full personal names, and children inherit the father's family name unless otherwise settled when registering the marriage.
The family names are subdivided into bon-gwan (clans), i.e. extended families which originate in the lineage system used in previous historical periods. Each clan is identified by a specific place, and traces its origin to a common patrilineal ancestor.
Early names based on the Korean language were recorded in the Three Kingdoms period (57 BCE – 668 CE), but with the growing adoption of the Chinese writing system that was used as the script before the adoption of hangul in the 14th century, these were supplemented by Korean names that were written using Chinese characters (hanja). During periods of Mongol alliance, the ruling class supplemented their Korean names with Mongolian names when interacting with the Mongol Court and used Korean names in Korea and in other places.
Because of the many changes in Korean romanization practices over the years, modern Koreans, when using languages written in Latin script, romanize their names in various ways, most often approximating the pronunciation in English orthography when using their names outside of Korea. Some keep the original order of names, while others reverse the names to match the usual Western pattern.