주필한국대사관 김재신 대사는 최근 주필미국대사관 성 김 대사가 부임하면서 필리핀에 두 명의 김씨 성을 가진 대사로 인해 필리핀 정부가 의전에서 발생한 해프닝과 관련 △필리핀 내에 두 명의 김 대사가 활동하게 되었고 △한국인의 이름 및 작명방식과 필리핀 및 서양식 이름과 작명방식과의 차이점을 비교 · 설명하는 글을 2016년 12월 29일자 Philippine Star지에 다음과 같이 기고했다.
Two Ambassador Kims in the Philippines
The new Ambassador of the United States to the Philippines, Mr. Sung Y. Kim, recently arrived in the country. As is well known, he is a Korean-American and was also the US Ambassador to Korea. Coincidentally, his family name Kim happens to be the same as mine.
Since I arrived in the Philippines last year, I have had several experiences where my name was misspoken or miswritten. I can imagine that the presence of two Ambassador Kims in this country – one from Korea, the other from the US – may cause some confusion in the diplomatic community in the Philippines.
The Korean naming system is very different from that of the Philippines or the Western style, so I would like to explain the peculiarities of Korean names.
Family name first, followed by given name
In Korea, the family name comes first. We don’t have any concept of a first or second or middle name, only a given name. So my full name is Kim Jae-Shin – Kim is my family name, Jae-Shin is my given name. But we have to be careful because using the Korean style could lead to mistakes. For example, name tags meant for me at some events would say Ambassador Shin or I would be called Ambassador Shin or Jae. Furthermore, the Korean family name Kim is also used as a given name in the Western tradition, giving more chances for misunderstandings. That’s why when some Koreans introduce themselves in English, they follow the Western style by putting the family name at the end in order to avoid confusion. In this case, my name becomes Jae-Shin Kim.
Monosyllabic family name, disyllabic given name
In contrast to many Western names, Korean family names are shorter and easier to remember. The Korean family name commonly has one syllable and the given name has two syllables. Some Koreans may have a two-syllable family name and a given name of one or more than three syllables, but these are very unusual cases.
Another important thing is that disyllabic given names should not be treated as separate names. To avoid this, I use a hyphen between the syllables, like Jae-Shin. Or some Koreans make this disyllabic name into one word in English, like Jaeshin.
Only several dozen family names are used by more than 90 percent of the entire Korean population
I heard that in the Philippines, one is likely to encounter a Filipino with a family name of Santos, Reyes, or Cruz. Similarly in Korea, Kim, Lee, and Park are the most common family names, in that order. According to government statistics, 21.5 percent of the total population is named Kim. Along with Lee (14.9 percent) and Park (8.6 percent), they comprise 45 percent of all Koreans. That means one in every five Koreans is named Kim, and almost half of Koreans are either named Kim or Lee or Park. Of the 11 presidents in the history of the Republic of Korea, there have been two President Kims, two President Lees, and two President Parks. There is even a Korean joke that if someone threw a small stone from Namsan (noted for the tourist attraction N Seoul Tower), it may hit the head of anyone named Kim,Lee, or Park.
The ten largest family names – Kim, Lee, Park, Choi, Chung, Kang, Cho, Yun, Chang, and Lim – share 63.9 percent of the total population.
Koreans who share the same family name can be divided into different clans. In the case of Kim, there are about 35 clans who come from all over the Korean peninsula. There is no way to distinguish one clan from another except by asking their origins.
Many Koreans have the same full name
As mentioned above, a huge percentage of the Korean population already share the most common family names. And because given names are only two syllables long, the possible distinct combinations of syllables for names are quite limited. So we can easily find Koreans with the same name in schools, companies, government organizations,etc. Although mine is not a very common Korean name, when I checked the phonebook, I was surprised to still find more than a dozen people named Kim Jae Shin.
In order to identify those who have the same names and avoid confusion, schools, companies and organizations add numbers after the names, like Kim Jae Shin(1), Kim Jae Shin(2), Kim Jae Shin(3), and so forth. I find the need to do this very amusing.
Married women keep their maiden name
The most distinctive thing between the naming systems of Korea and other countries is that Korean women retain their maiden names after marriage. This is a very unique practice as it only exists in Korea and China, as far as I know. Even in Japan, Korea’s nearest neighbor, women adopt their husband’s family name after they get married.
It could sometimes lead to awkward situations. When my wife – her family name is Lee – and I try to book a hotel room, I feel the need to do some explaining to avoid any “unnecessary suspicion.”
I hope this explanation sheds light on the Korean naming system and gives you a glimpse of an integral part of Korean culture. May this enrich your interactions with the many Koreans here in the Philippines.
Masaganang Bagong Taon po sa inyong lahat!
* * *
(Kim Jae-Shin is the Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the Philippines.)
지난해 12월 필리핀정부는 아귀날도 캠프에서 두테르테 대통령이 참석한 가운데 Eduardo Año 장군의 육군참모총장 취임식이 개최됐다. 필리핀 정부는 육군참모총장 취임식에 주요 국가 대사를 초청하였으며, 주필한국대사관 김재신 대사와 주필미국대사관 성 김 대사도 함께 초청되었다.
필리핀 정부 의전 관계자가 KIM 의 이름으로 두 좌석이 배정되었으나, 잘못 배정된 것으로 인식하여 한 좌석을 줄이면서 먼저 행사장에 도착한 주필한국대사관 김재신 대사가 자리를 잡고 뒤늦게 도착한 성 김 미 대사는 좌석이 없어 약간의 당황스러운 해프닝이 발생했다. 주최측의 발 빠른 대처로 이날 행사에는 김재신 대사와 성 김 대사가 나란히 않아 참모총장 취임식을 관람했다.