This is a letter that was sent with my husbands records and we thought it might be helpful to share it with others.It is from 1979, but I'm fairly sure this information wouldn't have changed much since then.We don't know how helpful it will be, but any help we can give others with their search is great.(letter follows)
INFORMATION REGARDING FAMILY REGISTRATION AND FAMILY NAMES IN KOREA The following information may be helpful in understanding Korean culture and attitudes regarding birth registration and names. FAMILY REGISTRATION - The Family Registration is the document in Korea which verifies proof of a birth. The Register identifies one person, usually a male, as the head of the family or the family chief.All other members are listed with their own names and their date of birth.In addition, there is a notation that indicates each member's relationship to the head of the family or the family chief; for example, son, daughter, wife, grandson, etc. Procedures for establishing a Family Register or for entering the name of a new family member onto the Family Register are very different from the American system of individual birth certificates. After a marriage the bride's name is entered on the husband's Family Register as his wife. After the birth of a child, it is the responsibility of the parent, either father or mother or both of them together, to go personally to the appropriate government office and request that the name and birth date of the child be entered on their Family Register. If a child has no functioning parents, a relative or the child's guardian may request the establishment of a Family Register in the child's name. When a child is abandoned and his parents are not known, an appointed guardian can request that a Family Register be established for the child. In such cases, because his parents are unknown, the child is listed as his own family head or chief.An orphanage director or the director of an agency such as Holt can become guardian of an abandoned child, through appropriate legal procedures. The address on the Register is considered that person's permanent address, even if he may move to some other area.Thus, many Korean people have both a permanent address and a present address; the permanent one where his birth records were established and the present one where he currently lives. A Family Register is kept on file in the government District office where it is first requested and established.Each city has many such offices and of course there are many offices in rural areas of Korea. There is no central office.This means that searching for birth records is like looking for a needle in a haystack unless the registry office is known. Before coming to Holt, infants who are abandoned were rarely, if ever, put onto a Family Register.Even an older child may not have been entered onto the Register. In the case of abandoned siblings, it is impossible to put them on the same Family Register.Thus these children will each have an individual Family Register.
FAMILY NAMES - The choice of a name in Korea, as in other Oriental cultures, is a matter of utmost importance and is done with great care arid in a serious way.Names are chosen with serious regard to the meaning of the name and to the child's generational position in the family, and not because the parents like the name. Usually siblings have two names in common.For example, a brother and a sister might be named Lee, Myung Soo and Lee, Myung Ja. Lee is the family name, Myung is the generation name and Soo or Ja are the given names. Therefore, children born in the same generation in a family (brothers, sisters and cousins) will share a common generation name which indicates they are of the same generation.This generation name is given a child by design and pattern, not by a casual choice. A child is always called by his generation and given name, e.g. Myung Soo. To use only one, Myung or Soo is improper.An adult is known by last name and title (Mister, Teacher, Lawyer, etc.). Only when adults become very good friends do they drop the title, and then they use all three or only the generation and givexa name. HOLT ADOPTION PROGRAM, INC. P.O. Box 2420 Eugene, Oregon 97402