Korean typically uses 3 single-syllabic characters. They are Last Name + First Name + Middle Name.
In Korean, they often want to know what clan you are from first.
Often the Middle name is a rotated name in the family—typically rotated for 5 generations. By looking at the person’s middle name, you can tell the generational hierarchy. This isn’t always the case, though. It is in my family.
Since Korean names (and Japanese and Chinese) are written formally with Last name first, this understandably causes confusion when it is written in English alphabet.
For example, look at a Korean name:
Admiral Yi Sun Shin.
What is his last name?
Of course, it is Yi.
To provide some clarity, his First and Middle names are hyphenated to Sun-Shin.
I also see a trend that simply join the two names as Sunshin as hyphenated names are not uncommon in the English-speaking nations.
And to finally avoid all confusion, many Koreans simply choose a completely new English first name.
Author: Albert Kim