Kim (Korean surname)

Pronunciation [kim][1]
Language(s) Korean
Meaning Gold, iron
Region of origin Korea

Kim or Gim (Hangul: ) is the most common surname in Korea. As of the South Korean census of 2015, there were 10,689,959 people by this name in South Korea or 21.5% of the population.[2] Kim is written as (gim) in both North and South Korea. The hanja for Kim, can also be transliterated as (geum) which means "metal, iron, gold". The academic community is divided as to why is not read as in the case of surname and why it is read as instead. The Kim family is also the ruling family in North Korea.


The first historical document that records Kim in 636 references it as the surname of Korean king, Jinhung (526-576). In the Silla kingdom (57 BCE–935 CE)—which variously battled and allied with other states on the Korean peninsula and ultimately unified most of Korea in 668 — Kim (which means “gold”) was the name of a family that rose to prominence and became the rulers of Silla for 586 years.[3]


As with other Korean surnames, different lineages, known as bon-gwan or clans, are inherited from a father to his children. These designate the region of Korea, or paternal ancestor, from which they claim to originate.

The 2000 South Korean census listed 348 extant Kim lineages.[4]

Major clans

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

The Uiseong Kim (Korean의성김씨, hanja: 義城金氏) Clan traces its lineage back to the last prince of Silla, who later became a Monk.

There are two Andong Kim clans (Korean안동김씨; Hanja安東金氏) distinguished as Gu (Korean; Hanja) and Shin (Korean; Hanja) 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 Gangnido map, as well as Royal Noble Consort Hwi was banished for witchcraft.[5]

The Shin Andong Kim clan[6] was one of the powerful clans that dominated the later part of Joseon. One of the most powerful members from the clan was the Honorable Kim Josun, who was the father-in-law to Sunjo of Joseon. Kim Josun's daughter was Queen Sunwon.

According to a story recorded only in the Samgungnyusa, in 48 AD, Princess Heo Hwang-ok travelled from a country called "Ayuta"(India) to Korea, where she married Suro of Geumgwan Gaya and gave birth to ten children, thus starting the Kim dynasty of Geumgwan Gaya, the capital of which was in present-day Gimhae.

Famous ancient members of this clan, aside from the kings of Geumgwan Gaya, include the Silla general Kim Yu-sin. In Later Silla, 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. According to the 2015 South Korean census, there were 4,456,700 Gimhae Kim clan members in South Korea.

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

The Gyeongju Kims (Hangul: 경주김씨, hanja: 慶州金氏[7]) trace their descent from the ruling family of Silla. The founder of this clan is said to have been Gim Al-ji, 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. According to the South Korean census of 2015, there were 1,800,853 Gyeongju Kim clans in South Korea.

The Nagan Kim clan (Hangul: 낙안김씨, hanja: 樂安金氏) is extremely rare. Its progenitor, Kim Sujing (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 Kim (Hangul: 함창, hanja: 咸昌) trace their origin to the founder of the little-known Gaya confederacy state of Goryeong Gaya, King Taejo. His alleged tomb, rediscovered in the sixteenth 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.

The Gwangsan Kim clan (Hangul: 광산김씨, hanja: 光山金氏[8]) was one of the most prominent clans during Joseon. The Gwangsan Kims are the descendants of Heung Gwang (흥광, 興光), who was the third prince of Sinmu of Silla, its 45th monarch.

Yaseong clan (Hangul: 야성김씨, hanja: 野城金氏) is from Yeongdeok County. The name Yeongdoek replaced an earlier name, Yaseong, which means "City in the Wilderness" and dates its origins back to Silla.

Cheongpung Kim clan (Hangul: 청풍김씨, hanja: 淸風金氏[6]) was one of the aristocratic families during the Joseon. 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. Six members of the clan were prime ministers. The founder of the Yeonan Kim clan was Kim Seom-han, a descendant of Gim Al-ji. [9]

Gangneung Kim clan (Hangul: 강릉김씨, hanja: 江陵金氏) originated from Gangneung, Gangwon Province, South Korea. The progenitor was Kim Juwon (김주원, 金周元) who was a descendant of Muyeol 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. 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. They had two members that became prime ministers during that period.

According to the South Korean census of 2015, there were 56,989 Jeonju Kim clan members in South Korea. Its progenitor, Kim Bongmo (Hangul: 김봉모, hanja: 金鳳毛), was a descendant of the last king of Silla, Gyeongsun of Silla. South korean artist Kim Hee-Chul, North Korean leaders, Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un are from the Jeonju clan of the Gims.

Other clans

  • Ansan Kim clan, 안산김씨
  • Bu-an Kim clan, 부안김씨
  • Cheongdo Kim clan, 청도김씨
  • Cheongju Kim clan, 청주김씨
  • Daegu Kim clan, 대구김씨
  • Eon-yang Kim clan, 언양김씨
  • Gaeseong Kim clan, 개성김씨
  • Geumsan Kim clan, 금산김씨
  • Gim-nyeong Kim clan, 김녕김씨
  • Gongju Kim clan, 공주김씨
  • Go-ryeong Kim clan, 고령김씨
  • Go-seong Kim clan, 고성김씨
  • Gwangju Kim clan, 광주김씨
  • Gyeongseong Kim, 경성김씨
  • Hanyang Kim clan, 한양김씨 (Korean adoptees)
  • Jeonju Kim clan, 전주김씨 [Note 1]
  • Jinju Kim clan, 진주김씨
  • Naju Kim clan, 나주김씨
  • Pungcheon Kim clan, 풍천김씨
  • Pungsan Kim clan, 풍산김씨
  • Samcheok Kim clan, 삼척김씨
  • Seoha Kim clan, 서하김씨
  • Seonsan Kim clan, 선산김씨
  • Suncheon Kim clan, 순천김씨
  • Suwon Kim clan, 수원김씨
  • Ye-an Kim clan, 예안김씨
  • Yeongdong Kim clan, 영동김씨 (Yeongsan Kim clan, 영산김씨)
  • Yeong-gwang Kim clan, 영광김씨

See also