Qatar 2022: why is ‘Kim’ always repeated in the surnames of South Korean footballers?

On the third date of the World Cup Qatar 2022 the Uruguayan team faced South Korea and the result was a 0-0 tie. Although there were decisive moments, which moved the audience, a detail that drew attention were the surnames of the South Korean soccer players, since almost all of them have the same name and the most common is Kim.

This particularity may be new to those unfamiliar with South Korean culture, since the reason why surnames are repeated has a historical background.

For example, the goalkeeper is called Kim Seung-Gyu, while the defense of the South Korean team includes Kim Moon-Hwan, Kim Min-Jae, Kim Young-Gwon and Kim Jin-Su.

Although “Kim” is one of the most repeated surnames, there are also others such as Hwang, Son, Lee, Cho and Kwon. Of course, it is not because they are brothers or direct relatives, but it does have an explanation.

South Korea currently has a population of approximately 52 million. However, unlike other countries, the surnames used by its inhabitants are barely between 250 and 300 surnames. And more than 50% of it is divided between five: Kim, Lee, Park, Choi and Jung, with their different transliterations.

Years ago, when the South Korean aristocracy still existed, only one family name could be carried, but — once it was allowed to expand it — the vast majority of South Koreans chose to choose those related to the nobility.

According to the report of the National Statistical Office of South Korea, these are the most widely used Korean surnames in the Republic of Korea. First there is Hangul (Korea), then Hanja (from the Chinese language), and lastly the various romanizations.