Lee (Korean name)

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Hangul 이 (리 applies only to 李)
Hanja 李; 異 and 伊 are rare
I (Ri)
Yi (Ri)
Note: North Korean usage is in parentheses
Distribution of South Korean family names

percentage of family names in Korea

  Kim, Gim
  Lee, Yi, Rhee
  Park, Pak
  Jung, Jeong, Chung, Cheong

Lee is the common English spelling of (Korean pronunciation: [iː]), a common Korean family name. The proper pronunciation of the name in South Korea is "E" as in the letter in English(read aforementioned link to "Korean pronunciation"). Although in North Korea the name is still spelled as "리" and pronounced "Lee". Many times South Koreans will knowingly introduce themselves as "Lee" to foreigners even though this is not the proper pronunciation of their name. The more traditional spelling and therefore pronunciation of the name is the North Korean "리" (Lee). 이 derived from the Chinese Hanzi character (the Korean Hanja character is written the same way) is the second most common family name (after Kim)김 in Korea, with 이 derived from 異 or 伊 being relatively rare. The name is sometimes also transliterated as Yi (more commonly used in modern times when transliterating a given, rather than family, name) or Ri (North Korean), and was previously transliterated as Rhie or Rhee. The pronunciation of 李 as 리 is still common in North Korea.

The hanja 李 literally means "plum" or "judge." This character, as used in Korea, China and Vietnam, is the the most common surname in the world.

Distribution Edit

이 is the surname of approximately 15% of ethnic Koreans. This translates to 6,796,227 people in South Korea (2000), and millions more in North Korea (including 리) and among Korean emigrants and their descendants world-wide.


As with all Korean family names, the holders of the Lee surname are divided into different patrilineal clans, or lineages, known in Korean as bfue Jeonju or Gyeongju clans.

Deoksu clanEdit

The founder of this clan was Yi Dongsu, an official of the Goryeo period. This was a prominent yangban clan during the Joseon Dynasty, producing figures including the admiral Yi Sun-sin and the philosopher Yulgok Yi I. The clan seat, Deoksu, corresponds to Deoksu-hyeon, an old division of what is now Kaep'ung-gun in Kaesong city, North Korea.

Jinsung clanEdit

The founder of this clan is Teo-gye, Hwang Lee whose surname is Dosan. He was notable politician served as prime minster.

Yong-in clanEdit

The founder of Yongin clan was Kil-kwon who helped to found Goryeo.

Gyeongju clanEdit

The founder of this clan was Yi Alpyeong, one of the original village headmen of Silla, who chose Bak Hyeokgeose as the first king. According to the Samguk Sagi, the Yi name was officially bestowed on the family by King Yuri around 9 CE. Prominent members include the Silla general Yi Sabu and the Joseon-era scholar Yi Hwang, as well as Yi Oseong (Hang-bok), one of the "Oseong and Haneum" scholar pair from the Joseon era. It is the most populous Lee clan after the Jeonju Lee clan.

Yeoju clanEdit

Prominent members of this clan include the Joseon Dynasty philosopher Seongho Yi Ik.

Jeonju clanEdit

This is the most populous Lee clan. The founder of this clan was Yi Han, a native of Baekje who later married a Silla princess and became a high official of Silla. His 22nd-generation descendant, Ah Tae Jo (Yi Seonggye), went on to found the Joseon(Chosun) Kingdom. The Jeonju Yi family ruled Joseon for 518 years between 1392 and 1910. The current pretender to the Korean throne is Her Imperial Higness, Empress Haewon of Joseon. Members of the different branches of Jeonju Yi family dominated Korean history right up until the formation of the current Republic of Korea. there are still many korean families that carry the jeonju yi name.

Danyang clanEdit

The founder of this clan was Jeong Dojeon, who was the first Prime Minister of Joseon and had close relations to King Yi Seonggye. He bestowed upon him the right to start his clan, a right only a yangban could ask, thus Jeong Dojeon created a new yangban clan. The clan's ancestral seat is Danyang.

Yangsan clanEdit

The founder is Yi Man-young, an internal minister in Korea following the fall of the Koryo dynasty. He died of strangulation near an isolated mountain.

Suan clanEdit

About 38 generations before were the original Chinese. Suan, located in North Korea is also a prominent clan. Born in 1910, Lee Kiyoung, a member of his clan was a former CEO of one of Korea's first and biggest construction company, a feat so prestigious that he was one of the 200 most successful people in Korea at his time.

Seongju clanEdit

The founder of this clan was Soon Yu (Korean:순유, Traditional Chinese:純由), a prominent official of late Silla. His 12th-generation descendant Jang Gyeong (Korean: 장경, Traditional Chinese: 長庚) was also a prominent official of the Goryeo dynasty. Eight generations of Jang Kyung's descendants yielded 75 civil examination qualifiers. As of a 2000 census conducted by the ROK, 186,188 Koreans of the Seongju Yi clan live in South Korea.

Hongju clanEdit

The founder of the Hongju Lee clan was Lee Yoo Sung, a member of the King’s inner circle during the late Koryo dynasty. The clan’s ancestral seat was bestowed when his 9th generation descendant, Lee Ki-jong, was titled. Hongyang/Hongju is located in present day Hongseong, Chuncheong Nam Do Province, South Korea. Especially during the late Koryo and early Lee dynasties, the Hongju Lee clan produced many outstanding and influential people, including Lee Yeon-su, Lee Seong, Lee Seo, and Lee Jong-jang.

Notable peopleEdit

Given the prevalence of Lee as a family name among ethnic Koreans, a great number of people have this surname including the current president of South Korea.

See alsoEdit

This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at Lee (Korean name). The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with this Familypedia wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.

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