All of us at one point or another would have experienced this in school – people in the same class who have the same name.
In elementary school, there were three girls in my class that had the same name, and two of them even had the same surname! As a result, my teacher and our class had to come up with nicknames in order to differentiate between them.
Recently, Hyojin stumbled upon this news article on the Internet (http://smarturl.it/rrpqip) that analysed the most popular baby names in Korea in the past few decades. As we found the article to be an interesting read, we wanted to share it with all of you!
According to the article, the names that are most popular in a particular period of time reflect what is preferred and valued in that time.
In 1948, the boy name that was the most registered was영수 (Young-soo), followed by 영호 (Young-ho) and 영식(Young-shik).
Out of the top 5 most registered boy names, 4 had the character ‘영’ (永, in Hanja). This preference for this character was probably because during that period of time, many children died at a young age.
As ‘영’ means ‘to be long’, parents could have preferred to name their children with this character in order to protect them from any possible ill health hoping their children lead a long healthy life. A decade later in 1958, 4 out of the top 5 most registered boy names also had the character ‘영’.
As for the girls, in 1948, many girl names ended with the character‘자’ (子 in Hanja) which is derived from the Japanese word ~코, which means ‘child’. The top 3 most registered girl names in 1948 were 순자 (Sun-ja), 영자 (Young-ja), and 정순 (Jeong-sun). At that time, people used to prefer translated Japanese names. One of the most common names for girls was 미옥 (Mi-ok), which was the translation of the Japanese name 미야꼬 (Mi-ya-kko).
The characters ‘정’ (貞/晶 in Hanja) and ‘숙’ (淑 in Hanja) were also popular in girls’ names at that time, as both characters have the meaning of being virtuous. In 1958, 영숙 (Young-suk) was the most preferred name, followed by정숙 (Jeong-suk) and 영희 (Young-hee).
Back then, ‘현모양처– to be a good wife and wise mother ‘ was one of the most important values for a woman to follow and/or achieve, and this preference was reflected in the popular girl names. Furthermore, the character ‘순’ (順 in Hanja), with the meaning of being gentle and mild, was popular as it reflected the wish of people back then to live without any hardship.
With the Korean economy developing fast from the late 1960s, the names that were most preferred also changed. In 1968, the most common boy name was 성호 (Seong-ho), replacing 영수. The characters ‘성(成/晟, meaning ‘success/brightness’ in hanja)’ and ‘훈(勳, meaning ‘success, contribution’ in hanja)’ were popular in boy names in 1978, as they reflected the wish of parents for their children to be successful.
As for the girls, the characters ‘미’ (美, meaning ‘beauty’ in Hanja) and ‘은’ (銀, meaning ‘silver’ in Hanja) were popular in 1968 and 1978, as for girls, beauty was prized and thus, parents wanted to give their daughters pretty names.
In the late 1980s, the 학원 (private institutions) industry in Korea was growing. Parents wanted to give their children a head start by enrolling them in these academies to learn what they will study in school before it is covered. Thus, the characters ‘지’ (知/智, meaning ‘knowledge/wisdom’ in Hanja), and ‘혜’ (慧, meaning ‘to be wise’ in Hanja) were popular in the names given to both boys and girls at that time.
The change in the popularity of the characters used in girl names reflected the change in the perception ofthe role girls and daughters held in society. In the 50s and 60s, they were expected to be a good wife and a wise mother, but from the 80s, they were expected to become successful academically, just like boys.
The trend changed again at the turn of the Millennium. The most preferred boy name was 민준 (Min-jun), and this name is still popular as of April this year. The popularity of this name reflects the value of wealth in society.
Furthermore, due to globalization, boy names like민준 and 지훈that can be pronounced easily by foreigners, are preferred.
Girl names that are easy for foreigners to pronounce are also preferred.
Also, neutral names that can be used for both girls and boys have been popular in recent years. As of April this year, 서윤 (Seo-yoon), 서연 (Seo-yeon), 민서 (Min-seo) have been the most popular.
The characters ‘서’ (瑞 in Hanja), ‘민’ (珉 in Hanja) and ‘윤’ (潤 in Hanja) have a meaning of being successful, and reflects the wish of parents for their children to be successful in life.
It is interesting to see how the popularity of certain names change along with societal phenomena as time goes by.
Do you have a common name? What are the popular baby names in your country? Do let us know by leaving a comment below!
This blog post is written by our new intern, Clarisse.
If you liked the post, let her know by leaving a comment!
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[Ask Hyojin] How do Korean parents pick names for their children? Now that you know what kind names have been popular over the course of time, learn how Korean parents pick their baby’s name 🙂 In this episode of Ask Hyojin, Hyojin is joined by Keith from Seoulistic.com and talk about how parents pick names for their babies in Korea! [Ask Hyojin] How do Korean parents pick names for their children?