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Kim or Gim (?) is the most common surname in Korea. As of the South Korean census of 2015, there were 10,689,959 people by this name in South Korea or 21.5% of the population. Kim is written as Hangul: ? (gim) in both North and South Korea. The hanja for Kim, ? can also be transliterated as Hangul: ? (geum) which means "metal, iron, gold". The academic community is divided as to why ? is not read as ? in the case of surname and why it is read as ? instead. The Kim family is also the ruling family in North Korea.
The first historical document that records Kim in 636 references it as the surname of Korean king, Jinhung (526-576). In the Silla kingdom (57 BCE-935 CE)--which variously battled and allied with other states on the Korean peninsula and ultimately unified most of Korea in 668 -- Kim (which means "gold") was the name of a family that rose to prominence and became the rulers of Silla for 586 years.
As with other Korean surnames, different lineages, known as bon-gwan or clans, are inherited from a father to his children. These designate the region of Korea, or paternal ancestor, from which they claim to originate.
The 2000 South Korean census listed 348 extant Kim lineages.
Some of the notable Gu Andong Kim clan members were General Kim Si-min and Prime Minister Kim Sa-hyeong, who was involved with the Gangnido map, as well as Royal Noble Consort Hwi was banished for witchcraft.
The Shin Andong Kim clan was one of the powerful clans that dominated the later part of Joseon. One of the most powerful members from the clan was the Honorable Kim Josun, who was the father-in-law to Sunjo of Joseon. Kim Josun's daughter was Queen Sunwon.
According to a story recorded only in the Samgungnyusa, in 48 AD, Princess Heo Hwang-ok travelled from a country called "Ayuta"(India) to Korea, where she married Suro of Geumgwan Gaya and gave birth to ten children, thus starting the Kim dynasty of Geumgwan Gaya, the capital of which was in present-day Gimhae.
Famous ancient members of this clan, aside from the kings of Geumgwan Gaya, include the Silla general Kim Yu-sin. In Later Silla, members of the Gimhae Kim family were admitted to all but the highest level of the Silla bone rank system.
This clan is by far the most populous of all Korean clans. According to the 2015 South Korean census, there were 4,456,700 Gimhae Kim clan members in South Korea.
The Gyeongju Kims (Hangul: ?, hanja: ?) trace their descent from the ruling family of Silla. The founder of this clan is said to have been Gim Al-ji, an orphan adopted by King Talhae of Silla in the 1st century AD. Alji's seventh-generation descendant was the first member of the clan to take the throne, as King Michu of Silla in the year 262. According to the South Korean census of 2015, there were 1,800,853 Gyeongju Kim clans in South Korea.
The Nagan Kim clan (Hangul: ?, hanja: ?) is extremely rare. Its progenitor, Kim Sujing (Hangul: , hanja: ), was a descendant of the last king of Silla and established their ancestral home in Suncheon. In the South Korean census of 2000, less than 10,000 citizens claimed to be Nagan Kims.
The Hamchang Kim (Hangul: ??, hanja: ??) trace their origin to the founder of the little-known Gaya confederacy state of Goryeong Gaya, King Taejo. His alleged tomb, rediscovered in the sixteenth century, is still preserved by the modern-day members of the clan. This clan numbered only 26,300 members in the 2000 South Korean census.
The Gwangsan Kim clan (Hangul: ?, hanja: ?) was one of the most prominent clans during Joseon. The Gwangsan Kims are the descendants of Heung Gwang (, ), who was the third prince of Sinmu of Silla, its 45th monarch.
Cheongpung Kim clan (Hangul: ?, hanja: ?) was one of the aristocratic families during the Joseon. Two queens were from this clan during that period. Several members of the clan also became prime ministers.
Sangsan Kim clan (Hangul: ?, hanja: ?) originated from Sangju in North Gyeongsang Province, South Korea. The progenitor was Kim Su (, ) and the clan had members that participated in the government of Joseon.
Seoheung Kim clan (Hangul: ?, hanja: ?) was one of the smaller Kim clans during the Joseon. The progenitor was Kim Bo (, ) and one of the members was Kim Gwoeng-pil (, ), who was one of the 18 Sages of Korea and honored as Munmyo Bae-hyang, (?, ?).
According to the South Korean census of 2015, there were 56,989 Jeonju Kim clan members in South Korea. Its progenitor, Kim Bongmo (Hangul: , hanja: ), was a descendant of the last king of Silla, Gyeongsun of Silla. North Korean leaders, Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un are from the Jeonju clan of the Gims.