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This is one of the most confusing parts of Korean culture for many people.  You’ll see a man with the last name Lee (이), and a woman with that last name Park (박).  Later on, you see them sitting together, having a good time.  You may think that they are dating, but you find out that they are married to each other.  How can that be?  How can two people who are married have different last names?  After all, many Korean Americans that marry other Korean Americans both have the same last name.  The answer is simple.

Respect For Her Father’s Family

In Korea, a woman does not change her last name when she gets married.  Why not?  In Korean society, what westerners, or #외국인’s, consider to be a last name is considered to be a family name.  In Korea, you never change your name, especially your family name.  Why not?  Because keeping her family name is a way for a woman to show respect, not respeck, to her father’s family.   As a result, her husband will not expect her to take on his family’s name.  So keeping her name is not a sign of disrespect or that there are family problems. It is a tradition that is honored to this day.  But what about the children?  What family name will they have?

Following in Mommy’s Footsteps

Like their mother, children will have their father’s family name.  So it is normal for children to have a different family name than their mother.  The only way that a mother would have the same family name as her children is if she married someone who had the same family as her.  For many years, it was illegal for a Korean to marry someone with the same family name as them.  This law helped to prevent people from marrying a relative on accident.  But now that there are more Koreans, and that a blood test can reveal if 2 people are related or not, this law has been done away with.

Hopefully this clears up this confusing part of Korean culture to many.  As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to #askthewaygookin.