If you know a Korean, chances are decent that he or she’s a Kim. Kim is the most common surname in Korea. But that doesn’t mean every other guy you find will be a Kim. When you break it down to percentages, Kims make up about 21.6% of the Korean population, followed by the Lees at about 14.8%.
That roughly rounds out to about 1/5. So yeah, you might think that’s still a bit generic. Being a Kim myself, so did I. Being a James Kim on top of that, I feel very much like a generic Korean American. Now the part that most of you (including yours truly) didn’t know is that there are different types of Kim. When I say different types, I am referring to the different clans.
Although they share the same surname of Kim, the different clans originated in different areas of Korea and grew to become what they are today. In total, there are 348 different Kim clans. Of those, a few make up the majority of the Kims.
They are, as of the 2000 census:
Gim-hae Kims with ~4.1 million people
Gyeong-ju Kims with ~1.7 million
Gwang-san Kims with ~.8 million
Kim-nyung Kims with ~.5 million
Goo-an-dong Kims with ~.4 million
These five clans alone make up about 60-70% of the Kims you see today. I personally belong to the Gyeongju clan. The Gyeongju Kims are descended from Silla, one of the ruling families of Korea from 57BC to 935AD. The Gyeongju clan is also known for their striking good looks and their wicked charm. *wink*
So there you have it, I am part of the 2nd most common variety of the 1st most common Koreans. I’m clearly not generic.