I have noticed that some South Korean/North Korean given names use the letter 漢 (e.g. 漢宰, 漢率). This seemed a bit odd to me, since 漢 is usually strongly linked to the Han dynasty of China. Why do these names use 漢 instead of 韓 etc.?

It may just be a matter of preference, but is there any other Korean meaning to 漢, or some nuance/image that the character holds?

  • 3
    Don't forget that the river passing through Seoul, Han River is also written as 漢江 in Hanja, not to mention many years ago the city itself was called 漢城. If you want to, feel free to incorporate this into the question if you want :-)
    – busukxuan
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 6:30
  • Thank you for the comment! I did not know about the name 漢城. Since Seoul was called by that name for such a long period of time, I can imagine that 漢 is much more familiar to Korean people than I imagined.
    – Azai
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 14:33
  • 1
    It was only the official name of Seoul several centuries ago though. Not sure if it remained in colloquial use after that, so maybe the name isn't really that familiar to native speakers. Anyway, it could be related. Wikipedia in particular said the name of the city (or perhaps another city that was once positioned at the same location as Seoul anyway...), 한성, meant "vast city", but I couldn't find anything similar in dictionaries.
    – busukxuan
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 14:39
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    漢城 only stopped being used in mainland Chinese media in 2005! But I can imagine Korean names, especially from name books, would even pre-date the Second World War, and 漢 for Koreans would be better known as river through Seoul more so than that old Chinese dynasty around the time of the 고구려.
    – Michaelyus
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 16:08
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    Going in the other direction, apparently 韓 is the 27th popular family name in China! See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_common_Chinese_surnames
    – jick
    Commented Jun 14, 2017 at 23:03

1 Answer 1



  1. I think only the person, who gave the name, knows the answer.
  2. 漢 has a lot of other meanings.
  3. As a native Korean, it's not odd to me at all. It's because we don't care about Hanja names much. Most people have Hanja names, though. Namely, we don't care whether he writes his son's name with 漢 or 韓. We are just concerned that his name is '한' which is a Korean letter.
  4. Here is Link that can help you. A person asked a similar question to yours.
  • Thanks for the insight! (3) is especially interesting to me. I do not have in-depth knowledge on Korean culture, so I was always curious to how much Korean people emphasize Hanja (if it is only a historical thing, or if young people care about it as well).
    – Azai
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 14:42
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    @Azai Hanja is important because 70% of Korean words consists of Hanja. These kinds of words are called 한자어. Namely, 70% of Korean words is 한자어 such as 생일(生日), 국가(國家) or 대한민국(大韓民國). On top of this, nowadays China power is super strong in Korean economy. However, when it comes to names, we don't care about mandarin meaning not much. For example, my mandarin name has meaning of "be the best in the universe." but who cares about the meaning? That kind of thing.
    – Ting Choe
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 15:00
  • Thank you for the follow up! It is nice to hear insight from a native Korean speaker. It is very interesting that while Hanja is important, it is not emphasized as much when it comes to names.
    – Azai
    Commented Feb 21, 2017 at 1:02
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    The gentry in Korea used to study the classics, e.g. the Analects (Confucius), which was learning to function in that language if to a limited extent. 'Studying hanja,' on the other hand, often means connecting some complex arbitrary symbol to something you already know how to spell. (E.g. connecting 生日 to 'birthday.') In that form, the work is utterly uninspiring, and naturally the interest has declined, apart from sporatic campagins to go 'pure' hangul, notably a five year project from 1968. Till '68 movie credits (cast and staff names) are in hanja; from '69 hangul. @Azai
    – Catomic
    Commented Feb 21, 2017 at 12:36

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