1 Korean: there is one Chinese character for the surname Kim. Kim is the most common Korean surname, comprising about 20 percent of the Korean population. According to some sources, there are over 600 different Kim clans, but only about 100 have been documented. Kims can be found in virtually every part of Korea. The two largest Kim clans, the Kim family of Kimhae and the Kim family of Kyŏngju, are descended from semi-mythological characters who lived two thousand years ago. According to legend, the Kimhae Kim family founder, Kim Suro, came in answer to a prayer offered by the nine elders of the ancient Karak Kingdom. In 42 ad , these elders met together to pray for a king. In answer to their prayer, they were sent a golden box containing six golden eggs. From the first egg emerged King Su-ro, Karak's first king. The other five eggs became the five kings of Karak's neighboring kingdom, Kaya. The founder of the Kim family of Kyŏngju, Kim Al-ji, had similar origins. In 65 ad the king of Shilla, T’alhae, heard a strange sound from a forest near the Shilla capital, Kyŏngju. On investigation he found a crowing white rooster standing next to a golden egg. From this egg emerged Al-ji, founder of the Kyŏngju Kim family and subsequent king of the Shilla Kingdom. Because Al-ji emerged from a golden egg, King T’alhae bestowed upon the child the surname Kim, which means ‘gold’. It is estimated that about half of the one hundred or so Kim clans of modern Korea are descended from the Kyŏngju Kim clan.2 Swiss German: unexplained.
Dictionary of American Family Names © Patrick Hanks 2003, 2006.