Name-Changing Fad Grows

  • By Kim Shin-young

    September 29, 2021 08:25

    More and more people in Korea are changing their names now that it has become easy and no request is ever refused.

    Some 133,255 people changed their name in 2019, bringing the total over the decade to 1.46 million or three out of every 100 Koreans.

    Even until the early 1990s, it was very difficult to change one's name and only 70 percent of requests were authorized by the courts. But then the courts eased standards to help people who were suffering inconveniences and the rate of authorization surged to 95 percent in the 2000s. By now all requests are automatically granted.

    People are not the only changing their own names. At one time, it became a fad to change the names of apartments on the assumption that including the brand name of a well-known developer would jack up the value of residential property. But there is no evidence to support that belief. In fact it was probably the fresh coat of paint applied to aging apartments that improved their value.

    Then there was the rebranding of whole neighborhoods to improve their image. Sillim-dong and Bongcheon-dong changed their names to Sinsa-dong, Samseong-dong and Daehak-dong because locals felt the redeveloped neighborhoods deserved to shed the old associations.

    Conglomerates also tried to upgrade their image, so Lucky Goldstar became LG in 1995 to appeal to global customers, and Sunkyung changed its name to SK in 1998.

    There certainly is a lot of magical thinking involved. Naming advisers who assist parents in the selection of children's names flourish, and after a calamity some choose give themselves a more auspicious name.

    Thus Choi Soon-sil, ex-President Park Geun-hye's toxic friend, turned into Choi Seo-won when her old name became a byword for the corruption scandal. Political parties too are constantly changing their names as if they could magically ward off defeat and reset their fortunes, even when they are in power.

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