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Foreign wives adopt popular surnames

A rising number of naturalized foreigners are taking to Korean surnames, most of them preferring common ones such as Kim, Lee and Park.

From January 2009 until last month, 91 foreigners were permitted to change their surname to a Korean one in North Chungcheong Province, according to the Cheongju District Court yesterday.

Of them, 81 were women, most of whom were immigrant wives, said court officials.

Eighteen of them chose Kim, the most prevalent Korean surname.

Other popular names such as Lee, Park and Choi followed.

In 2000, 9.92 million people -- 21.6 percent of the entire Korean population -- were named Kim, according to Statistics Korea. Lee, Park and Choi came in at 14.8 percent, 8.5 percent and 4.7 percent.

Chinese-turned-Koreans generally kept their original names, only changing the pronunciation to Korean style. Former Vietnamese or Filipinos, mostly immigrant wives, often chose an existing Korean name which sounds most similar to their original name, said court officials.

“An increasing number of foreigners are settling in Korea, many of them creating multicultural families,” said a court official.

“The creation of new surnames, which used to be rare in the past, has now become a subsequent social result of such globalization.”

The number of foreigners applying to register their new Korean surname rose from 63 in 2008 to 156 last year.

By Bae Hyun-jung  (