Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Database Traces Korean Surnames

I was once discussing Korean surnames with a Korean friend. He proudly told me his surname could be traced back over 20 generations. I found this fascinating, since my academic background was in social history, and I knew few American families could trace their pedigree back back 5-6 generations. In Korea, a family tree, or "chokbo" documents an individual family history and records names that are passed down to each new generation. According to Korean Times, a Korean firm has been gathering these family histories to form a comprehensive database.

Launched in 1999, the website offered family tree data free of charge until they shut down in late 2003 due to the high cost of the service. The company, Kasung Media plans to reopen the website next year. The company holds information on approximately 16,000 families.

Kasung CEO, Lee Byoung-chang notes that "Some of the information goes as far back as A.D. 600 with that of the 'Park', a family of Silla Kingdom (57 B.C.-668). That is some of the oldest data (that I have). But information has been more accurately recorded from A.D. 900 on."

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