Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Ask a Korean! Wiki: What to do with Asian Names?

Dear Korean,

We are adopting a sweet little boy from the Seoul area. My husband is Lebanese/American and I am European/American. We were planning on keeping the name his birthmother had given him which is HaJin. However a Chinese/American male friend didn't think this was a good idea. My friend stated that growing up Asian was difficult enough, and he and his Asian friends were grateful to have been given more English sounding names. What are your thoughts on this?

Paige K.

That issue is a tricky one not only for adoptive parents, but also for a lot of young Asian American parents. Paige's Chinese American friend is not wrong -- it is tough enough to look different, and adding the extra effort of telling people how to pronounce your name all the time, only to see them never remember your name, could be a rather alienating experience. But on the other hand -- especially for adoptees, who have a difficult time retaining their heritage culture -- using the given name could serve as a good reminder of one's heritage. One form of compromise among Korean American parents is to choose a name that can operate in both in English and in Korean (e.g. "Mina".)

As for the Korean himself, he hopes to give the Korean Baby a Korean first name and an English/Christian middle name, so that while the child could go by the English name, the priorities would be clear, especially when it comes to everything legal.

Having said that, let's hear from our readers. Asian Americans, how do you feel about your ethnic names? What did/will you do with your children's names?

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at


  1. There was a time when it was much easier to have an English name, but people have become much more open-minded over the decades as diversity awareness has grown. I am 38, and when I was a kid it was really tough to have a Korean first name, mostly because there weren't a lot of minorities and it was always an ordeal to teach people how to pronounce it. Nowadays, I think you "stick out" less now with a Korean name. Also, as difficult as it might have been, I believe it helped me build character and don't regret it.

    I think the Korean first name and American middle name is a good idea. Let the child choose. That decision may also change over time.

  2. i like your compromise of a name that would fit both English and Korean. please do not name your son bum-seok! som random points:

    1) considering their prevalance in the Korean-American community, should we consider the following names Korean? Esther, Grace, David, Daniel, Peter?

    2) i kind of like how 1st generation immigrant parents chose their kid's names. my sister claims i was named after Bobby Ewing from the 1980's TV Drama "Dallas." my brother's gf is named Mindy from "Mork & Mindy." one of my friend's was named Harland, but only because his grandfather origally had chosen "Hard Land" but couldn't spell it correctly, thank goodness!

  3. My legal first name is Korean given name and my middle name is an English name. Most of the time, I use First initial, middle name, last name. However many computer systems, especially government databases, insist on First name, middle initial, last name format. So you have to be flexible in how your name will be in various IDs, database, and so on.

  4. I'm a big fan of giving kids both a Korean name and an English name. But I'd lean toward using the English name as the first name if only for the sake of practicality and convenience. Hyphenated or separated first names (Ha-Jin/Ha Jin) can give databases conniptions (I know plenty of people who are accidentally known only by their first syllable because the computer thinks the second syllable is their middle name). Pasting the characters together (HaJin) can create pronunciation problems ("Hayjin", etc.) especially if it's not capitalized properly (always a concern with databases that only capitalize the first letter or capitalize all of them).

    Personally, I've been very grateful that not only do I have an English name, it is simple to pronounce and easy to spell (for most people, anyway). My Korean name was never a part of my legal name, but it's just as important to me as my English one, if not more, because it's what the people closest to me use. Its legal status has never had much of a bearing on its legitimacy in my private life. Many people choose to go by their middle name, nick name, or non-English name and do fine, regardless of what their legal name is.

  5. I'm torn about this. I live in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, which is a pretty multicultural city, and I grew up with many different kids from different backgrounds. SO hearing a name like Hajin, sounds pretty normal actually.

    My own name is Lang, which is my real name in Vietnamese too. My sister's name is a very generic "Judy", but then my dad had another daughter and named her "Diansa" (based on princess Diana, and "sa" meaning far in vietnamese. Then my brother's name is Deka, but has two different pronounciations, one in english which sounds more like "D.K". from donkey kong, and the vietnamese pronounciation of "Day Ka " .

    For my own children in the future I've been collecting names of memorialble characters I've come across in my life. Some are video game characters, other's are historical figures, some or japanese based and korean.

    So I guess it comes down to , you should name your kid based on love, and not fear of what they might experience or not. Do you really want to name your kid a generic "Michael ", "John", "Jack", or "Lisa"?

  6. Through K to 3rd grade, my first name was my Vietnamese name, Dang. You can see the problem with that. My mom finally realized her mistake just before 4th grade started and changed my first name to an English name but added my Vietnamese name as my middle name. That made life a bit easier as oddly enough I was more identifiable by my English name.

    So if the kid will be living in an area where there aren't that many different ethnicity, I'd still recommend having an English name first and the ethnic name for the middle. Though in regards to personal identity, I'm fairly sure that as long as the ethnic name is part of the legal name, regardless of it being the first or middle, that'll still be a strong part of one's identity.

  7. Warning : long answer

    (Part one)

    (First of all, I apologize for my English, it isn't my first language, please be indulgent...)
    I don’t think this question should be answered based on ease of use or fear of discrimination, but rather on identity, as a name is an important part in defining who we are.
    In his answer, TK mentioned that letting the child keep his Korean name might help him retain his "heritage culture". I think the situation of an adopted child is very different than that of an immigrant or even a 2nd generation immigrant. This brings the question "how important is it to retain a link to one’s birthplace”. A lot of it depends on how old is this little boy going to be when you adopt him. Past a certain age, when the child will retain memories of his birth country, I believe it would be important for him keep some kind of link to it (even more so if he can already speak and is already used to his Korean name, obviously), the use of his Korean name could be a good start. If it's a very young boy, i.e. a baby, it's a little more complicated. The way adoptees view their birthplace differs from one person to the other, and you can't really predict how your child will deal with it… (I’ve heard of adoptees in the same family reacting completely differently, so, of course the way the parent handle the question is very important, but it’s not the only factor).
    I can however tell you about my own story, which might differ greatly from someone else’s in a similar situation, but it is the only one I have to offer. I'm of Vietnamese origins, adopted by (French) Canadians at a very young age (3 months old). I have a (kinda-)French first name (It's Spanish actually, but most people don't know and think it's French… anyway,it's definitely not Vietnamese), a French middle-name, a Vietnamese family name and 2 French family names (Mother’s and Father’s) (As far as we known, I was never given a Vietnamese first name by my birth parents, that is probably why my adoptive parents opted to give me my Vietnamese family name). Yes, that is a lot of names, and no, I never use all of them. I only use my first and 2 French family names. I am of course happy that my parents let me keep my Vietnamese family name, I think it’s…. nice. It shows their respect for my origins, that they weren’t try to erase it or something like that, but honestly, this “link to my heritage culture”, I don’t feel it. And that is probably because, even though I am well aware of my Vietnamese origins and am not ashamed of it in any way whatsoever, I think of myself as Canadian. When I was young, my parents thought it might be nice for me to learn Vietnamese or have some Asian friends or something to keep me connected to my “heritage culture”, but honestly, I didn’t care (I have since then developed an interest in Asian cultures, but mostly Japanese and Korean, not Vietnamese. Make of that what you want). They cared about that a lot more than I did. They always taught me that I was both Canadian and Vietnamese, but personally, I feel a lot more Canadian than Vietnamese. My Vietnamese origins is something extra that I have that “pure blood Canadians” (Sorry, couldn’t find a better expression) don’t that, that differentiates me from them, but it does not define who I am. Some people might find it sad that I feel so remove from my “birth culture”, but I disagree. I might someday feel more interested in it, or maybe not… I think both ways are fine.

  8. (Part two)
    I understand the desire for adoptive parents to want to respect the original culture of their child, and I agree that it’s important, but it’s also important for them to fully take on their role of parents. Yes, this child is somebody else’s child whom you adopted, but that’s not all that he is, he should be, first and foremost, YOUR child. You see, in everyday life, when the subject of my adoption comes up (and it pretty much does every time I meet someone new), I refer to my birth parents as my “biological parents” and to my adoptive parents as my “real parents” or simply “my parents”. They are the ones who brought me up, transmitted me their values and made me the person I am today. My “heritage”, cultural or otherwise, it comes from them, and my French names reflect just that. I’m very happy to have French names. Honestly, I wouldn’t know what to do with a Vietnamese first name that I would have to use everyday and that I probably wouldn’t pronounce right myself.

    All this to say that I like the idea of a Korean middle name. I personally think that his predominant name should be from the culture that is going to be predominant in his life, whether it be Lebanese, European or American. But is the child ever feels like putting more emphasis on his Korean heritage, he will have the option to do so by using his middle name.

  9. I don't have an English name and I've gotten through life just fine. While I might not give my child a name that others could pronounce, like Xuebao, Zulfiqar or Donggeon, I don't see what's wrong with a name that reflects one's heritage while also being relatively easy to pronounce.

  10. I was born in Seoul and raised in the U.S. My husband and I adopted a child from Korea three years ago. I have a Korean name (and didn't change my last name when I got married.) My grandfather picked my name for me and there was never a question of whether my siblings or I would keep our names when we moved to America. Would I have been teased less had my name been Jenny Kim rather than Jae-Ha Kim? I doubt it. Most racists didn't care what my name was...just what I looked like.

    My nieces and nephews all have Western first names. My father picked their middle names: generational Korean names so that their Korean names all start with the same syllable. My father passed away before we brought our son home, but he made sure to give my child a generational name. He wanted to make sure that our son never felt excluded from our family. So ... we ended up changing our son's ENTIRE name. He has an English first name, a generational Korean middle name and my husband's last name. Did we do the right thing? I hope so, but I have no idea. Honestly, it broke my heart a little to change the name his birth mom gave him. But our choice felt right for us.

    I would advise Paige to do the same: make choices based not on what your friends say, but what you and your husband feel is best for your son.

  11. In 20-30 years, what do you think Ha Jin will say, if faced with a similar situation?

    Children can and will be cruel. Whether it concern their name, race, clothing or lunch choice, nearly every child endures some form of playground teasing and torment. Giving Ha Jin an English language name will not shield him from the teasing of other children; however, teaching him patience and open-mindedness will not only help strengthen him against such torment, but may allow him to be an example to his peers as he grows.

    I hope that Paige feels confident with whichever decision that she makes. While the teen years may be angsty (for some more than others, and adoption may be a sticking point as adolescents like to gnaw on whatever pokes through the woodwork), I'm sure Ha Jin will mature into a wonderful young man that will love and appreciate his parents, along with whichever name they choose.

  12. I am an adoptive parent of a Korean daughter. We used her Korean name as her middle name and gave her an English name for her first name. Ava Bokyung. It has a nice ring. One of the Korean adoptees whose blog I follow gave us kudos for helping to maintain her Korean heritage in such a way... something her parents didn't do.

    If Paige wants to connect with another Korean adoptive family, I hope she looks me up!

  13. Some Korean names can cause more difficulty than others. I have a friend who immigrated to Canada when he was 9. His given name is Bum Suk, and for understandable reasons, he goes by a nickname with people whose first language is English.

    I don't think I'd change an adoptive kid's name, but I don't think letting them go by a nickname if/when they want to is a bad compromise.

  14. I was born in the US and have an English first name and a romanized-Korean middle and last name. I use my English name when I speak in English and my Korean name when I speak Korean. I think it was a fair compromise and it suits the way the business is conducted in the States.

    When I was in elementary/middle/high school, I loathed telling non-Koreans my Korean name - not because I was ashamed of being Korean, but because people couldn't pronounce it right and it would make me cringe. The heavily accented pronunciation -still- makes me cringe. I don't think I would've minded if I had an easy-to-pronounce Korean name. To me, giving them a name that they wouldn't butcher was a relief.

    I absolutely loved the fact that I had a Korean name though. I loved it even more when my mom explained to me the characters that make up my name. Also, my mom calls me by my Korean name so that it's the name I find most close/comfortable (compared to my English name where I find more detached/professional).

    Maybe you could do something similar? Give him an English name for school and friends but always call him by his given name.

  15. First of all, congratulations to HaJin’s parents!

    Regarding the discussion…I was given a Korean name that doubles as a common English name (e.g. Mina), but I did always feel left out because I didn’t have a separate “Korean” name like my other KA friends. Whether HaJin ends up with an English name or not, I do think it’s important that he keep his Korean name somehow.

    Also, kids will bully other kids no matter what. Of course, names with “dong” or “bum” will make someone an immediate and easy target, but kids with non-ethnic names get bullied all the time too (e.g. Richard, Gaylord, Gina). Never underestimate the creativity of bored kids in a classroom… If they want to make fun of a kid, they’ll find a way. HaJin seems fairly safe though.

    One more point. It might be too far in the future, but since names last a lifetime, I still think it’s worth thinking about. When HaJin moves past the playground and graduates from high school, he will be most likely apply to college or a job. And though my experience is anecdotal and obviously not all-encompassing, I have noticed that Asians with English names tend to fare much better than those with Asian names, for a number of reasons.

    1. English names are just easier to remember for the average non-Asian. Even for my non-Asian friends/colleagues who spend a good deal of time hanging out with Asian friends, it’s hard for them to remember names like “Jaeha” or “Xiaolun” the first time they meet someone or look at their resume just because of the unfamiliarity of the name. If the position is a competitive one, it’s possible that even something this small can tip an application into the rejected pile. You can argue that people should accustom themselves to unusual names on applications, but that’s a whole new can of worms and doesn’t change the reality of the situation.

    2. People without an English name are often international students, which often means a higher probability that they aren’t going to be as fluent in English. Employers may skip over them and give the interview slot to a candidate who is more likely to have the requisite language skills. (Note: I know TK is an example of international students becoming incredibly proficient in English, but that is not always the case, especially for students who move here post-high school.)

    3. Finally, HaJin may or may not ever come to terms with his dual identity as a Korean-American. I know it’s something I’m still struggling with (and something TK has worked through in his past). Giving HaJin an English name will at least give him the freedom to choose whatever name feels more comfortable for him in a given situation. For my part, I know that I always feel a little like a fraud when I’m around other Koreans because I’m so Americanized. As a KA adoptee, I imagine that HaJin will struggle with similar concerns. “HaJin” signals his racial identity to people within the first few seconds of meeting him. That will lead people to make some pre-assumptions about him that he may not be comfortable with as a KA adoptee. It might be easier to have an English name to offer at first, if only to allow HaJin to keep his identity to himself until he chooses to explain it.

    Having said all of that, I think no matter what HaJin’s parents choose, it’ll probably be fine. Your name is important, but there’s a lot more than goes into raising a child than just selecting a name. :)

  16. It also depends on the area. I am currently teaching college students in San Francisco, and there are students of all sorts of ethnicities in my classroom, including several Asian ones. The names in my classroom also come all sorts of ethnic backgrounds (including foreign names on some students whose families are definitely not immigrants). Hajin would not be too out of place here- I actually currently have a student with a very similar name- and I don't think he would be teased for it. People around here are used to seeking out the proper pronunciation of someone's name and, at least, try not to mangle it too badly. You get some weird sounds being made when, say, someone from Serbia tries to pronounce a name from China, but I think everyone understands that it's not intentional.

    That said, the point that people are making above, that this little boy won't be raised in a Korean/American context and might not identify with a Korean name, is a valid one. The idea of giving an English middle name is good. In addition, if the father strongly identifies with his Lebanese origins and is going to, for example, take the kid to visit family in Lebanon a lot, you might want to pick a middle name that works in both English and Lebanese, to the extent that that's possible. (You could also give another middle name, but having more than one middle name is problematic for filling into automated databases.)

  17. I agree with a lot of points that have been made above (just about all of them, actually :) ), so I'll just add my anecdote. This will be long!

    I'm a Korean-American, born in America, with a Korean legal name. Right before preschool I was given an "English" name by my mother (Victoria, FYI, not stereotypical KorAm name but with the typical Christian connotations) and so everyone not Korean called me Victoria from the age of three until 17.

    Over time I understood why she had done it (when in Rome...). I didn't like telling non-Koreans my real name for some of the same reasons mentioned by others: it's spelled funny (transliteration of the Korean spelling, not the pronunciation) and people just can't seem to pronounce it correctly (the spelling didn't help at all). But I also didn't like the overwhelming feeling of having two exclusive identities, a "Korean" me and an "American" me. This feeling only got worse after elementary school when we moved to a predominately white community (and I'm sure puberty compounded the feeling, because puberty=blegh).

    Long story short, I met a Korean exchange student my junior year of high school who a) had fantastic English and b) went by her actual name. I asked her why she didn't have an "English" name and she replied, "Well, --- is my name." And it hit me that my Korean name was my name and that I was really tired of feeling like I'm compartmentalizing myself. I'm not a Korean AND an American. I am a Korean-American. So I stopped using my English name (struck it away from my school documents that summer) and everyone has been calling me by my real name ever since. Mind you, I've heard roughly eight different pronunciations (and I answer to all of them!) and people do get intimidated and squirrelly the first time they see the spelling, but whatever. WHATEVER.

    I haven't thought about possible setbacks in the job hunt, though (still in school), but if any employer worth her salt looks at my resume she'll be able to see that I'm perfectly versed in Americana.

    So Paige K, I would advise you to do what you think is best. There is no right answer. If your husband goes by his Lebanese name, then it makes perfect sense for your son to keep his Korean name. But follow your intentions, and explain to your child when the time comes why you did what you did. Like what the others have said, the kid will probably get teased no matter what. I had to put up with stupid "Victoria's Secret" jokes, and furthermore people still managed to mess up my name by calling me all the other "V" names possible.

    And for two other anecdotes: my Korea-born older brother goes by his English name, and my American-born younger sister goes by her English name with her non-Korean friends and her Korean-name with Koreans. It really depends on the kid.

    1. I asked her why she didn't have an "English" name and she replied, "Well, --- is my name."

      Wish everyone thought like that. As a non Korean - non American, I've hard time understanding this need to have an English name. I'm not Asian so of course I can only try to imagine what it's like to grow up with a "strange sounding" name with all those "clever" people out there.
      Being able or not to endure jokes, misspelling and mispronunciation is not decided when one is a newborn, but I believe parents can teach this patience so one never feels the need to change his/her name, whatever it may be. (Yeah there are exceptions, like A Beomseok in an English-speaking country or a Minwoo in France...)

    2. I kind of agree with this.

  18. My wife and I adopted both of our kids, our son is Korean and our daughter Ethiopian. For our son, he was not named by his parents, so we kept his Korean as his 3rd and 4th names, giving him American first and second names. On his Tae Kwon Do uniform, however, is only his Korean name and the Grand Master will call him by that sometimes. For our daughter, she was named by her parents, so we kept her name and added an American name for her middle name. We also shorten her name differently than they would in Ethiopia.

  19. I'm a Korean American, given an English first name and a Korean middle name. My parents were going to just give me my Korean name as my only name, but the doctor convinced them that I'd have an easier time in life if I had an English first name. So, my father named me after his favorite American president and there I was. I primarily use my English name in the US, but when speaking Korean I will use my Korean name. I have to admit, I have no real fondness for my English name as part of my identity in part because of the reason I have it (my father broke from Korean naming tradition and specifically constructed my Korean name for me), but I have to admit that I prefer being called by my English name than hearing my Korean name suffer through poor pronunciation, which is the main reason I haven't deprecated its use. Also, when dealing with English-speaking Korean Americans, it helps bypass some of the levels of speech issues that sometimes arise from mixed-language speech, as in: if someone is going by their Korean name and they are noticeably older than me, I sometimes get my wires crossed in how to address them, because if I were speaking Korean, I'd try to find a title that would suit them instead of using their name and if I were only speaking English then I'd call them by their name, but when you're mixing it up, then... do you resort to the Kroean method to be safe? With my English name, I can just throw that out there and not worry about feeling offended if someone uses my Korean name casually without the right honorifics.
    However, I do feel, like HL above, that I have some feeling of identity fracture as a result of having two names and it bothers me just a little. In retrospect, I probably would have preferred just having my Korean name be my only name and deal with the other complications.
    But, that said, I think Asians in America have a variety of responses to their names and even how they were named and so, perhaps, it's not something to worry too much about as long as you're thoughtful enough about why you are or are not giving the kid an English first name, although I think it would be good to have him keep his Korean name in any case, even in his middle name as he will likely help him deal with his identity issues a little more as he grows up.

  20. Paige: Speaking of Lebanese, if your boy is going to be around Arabic speaking family, HaJin might not be a good idea. It sound like هجين which means hybrid or cross-bred. Also it might be awkward if the family name is recognisably Arabic too. But since the father didn't think of it, I assume it's not likely. I just wanted you know, just in case.

  21. What about changing his name to YuJin (pronounced Eugene). It works well for both countries and as your child gets older he can change the spelling to suite himself.

  22. I'm adopted and my parents gave me two middle names - one after their mothers and Kim from my last name. Honestly, I've struggled a lot with my identity because I grew up in Arkansas. In case you don't know anything about Arkansas, for an adoptee like me, it's hard to find the Asian minority and tough being the only Asian girl in your school (there were two Asian boys and the three of us were it). I don't think legally giving him a Korean name is helpful when (not if) he has his identity crisis. My parents were great - I never felt like I was missing a part of my life as some of my adoptee friends feel. And yet I still feel like I'm always on the outside looking in. In the US, I physically stand out though my culture is the same as everyone else. I thought when I lived in Korea, everything would be okay. I would look like everyone else. No big deal. But as was said in a previous article on this site, no matter how hard you try to be Korean - you still won't be one. I met a lot of international students at university, so I'm somewhat familiar with different cultures. But there are some things that we miss culturally and we can still feel like outsiders. The point of this long tangent is it may not matter in the long run which you do.

    Personally, I plan on giving my children English names legally, but perhaps calling them a Korean name as a term of affection ... or punishment (JAMES MICHAEL JONES! GET IN HERE RIGHT NOW!). My parents didn't tell me my Korean name until I found the bracelet the agency had on me when I came over and for awhile, as a third grader, I wanted to change my name legally to my Korean name. My parents told me if that's what I really wanted to do, it was okay. So you could just pick an English name and if they chose to go back to Hajin, support them.

    Finally, don't name him Yujin. While Korean names are typically unisex and there is no set rule, most of the Koreans I taught with told me that when they see the name Yujin on a roster, they think it'll be a girl. It was kinda a bummer for me as my dad's middle name is Eugene. I saw a lot of people talking about Mina, but that's a girl's name as well. I keep going back to Jae (pronounced Jay) or Jaemin (Jamie with an n). As I'm not entirely familiar with names other than my students' this might be wrong, but I found these English sounding names were much easier to find for girls. Doesn't help you, I know ...

    Oh, and one last thing ... are you sure the birth mother named him herself? I was told usually it's the social worker who names us. Thus, when my bio mom was first contacted, she had no idea who Kim Hee Ae was ... other than the famous actress.

  23. Anita, I suppose the agencies could lie...but in most of the current referrals, the reputable agencies state who named the child (the birth mom, birth family, social worker, orphanage director etc.). From my experience via our adoption and my friends' adoptions, that info was straight forward.

  24. When I asked my mom why she chose to put both names on my birth certificate, she said, "I wanted you to be unique." English first name and Chinese middle name has worked just fine for me.

  25. Korean-Australian here. My parents wisely gave my brother & me Anglo names when we first moved to Australia. We both have [Anglo name] [Hyphenated Korean name] [Surname] on all of our paperwork & go by our Anglo names. My Korean name has a "현" in it, and considering I've never heard "Hyundai" pronounced correctly in any English-speaking country (I'm told it 'rhymes with Sunday' in America...), it meant that I didn't have to put up with constantly teaching people how to say my name & hearing it mangled.

    1. almost all accounts...creepy...

      I, unfortunately, have a Christian name that isn't legal so I have to go by my Korean name and it is bloody freaking annoying >,<" I have to pre-empt tutors at university if it's they say my name for the first time with the words "The unpronounceable name will be mine" (the curse of being the lone Asian in a Literature/History/Education degree...)

  26. I'm not Asian American, I'm a European (Croatian) living in Korea and sometimes I think about these things too. I'm living with my Korean sweetheart and if someday we get married and have a child, our kid will be Korean, but will not look like one (if he or she takes after me more than after the father). I was planning giving him two names, like a Japanese friend of mine did, where one would be Slavic, one would be Korean.
    It may sound like a useless worry, I mean, if we live in Korea, simply give him a Korean name. Easier said than done. My family has nothing against Asians, but my parents are not very familiar with the east Asian names. I mean, how does it feel not being able to pronounce the name of your own grandparent? Well, they would probably give him/her a nickname, but that's not a complete solution. So, hopefully it's not a near future (you never know, though), but I think giving them two names would be the best solution. And a Korean who doesn't look like Korean who lives in Korea will already have a hard time, always proving him or herself, so in this kind of society a Korean name in that case is neccessary, I think.
    Well, there are some mixed people amongst their celebrities, I might research about them as well.

  27. The name of your own grandchild. ---> not grandparent, it was a "lapsus linguae" kinda thing.

  28. I moved to Canada from Vietnam at age 15. Yes, I went through a period of hating on all people who mispronounce my first name. So much that I decided to go by an English name. After 1 year, I realized I missed being called by my first name even though it is pronounced wrong all the time, it still makes me feel "me" compare to the foreign name that I imposed on myself just to make other people's lives easier.

    So now, I just go by my real name and proud of it. Luckily my real name isn't terribly difficult for people to say. Now I have an option of changing my legal name when I obtain my citizenship, I have decided to keep my name the same, at most I would add in an English middle name just to mark this milestone in my life. It's really about how you learn to embrace and love yourself.

    If I am going to have a kid in the future, I would choose a Vietnamese first name that could work in both languages, and a middle English name. Just don't give your children names that have bad initials like B.S, or something of sort. That is just a terrible thing to do as a parent.

  29. I pretty much agree with many of the points here on the board, especially TLP's comments. My recommendation would be to give your child both an English name and keep his Korean name, order not important. Choose one to use now (I suggest the English name due to the "native"/"recent immigrant" argument) and let him pick the name he prefers to use when he gets older. Heck, while you're at it, give him a Lebanese and European name too. To illustrate I have a few personal anecdotes.

    I'm a Japanese-Chinese-Canadian, and I have an English first and middle name, a Japanese middle name and a Chinese middle name. Combined with my (Japanese) last name, that's 5 names! And you know what? I love them all and put them all on official documentation (it's less of pain now than it used to be). I do so because it's not just a long set of names, but it's also a record of my heritage: Japanese, Chinese and Canadian. But since almost every one calls me by my English name, that also has became an integral part of my identity. I don't even like it when people shorten my English name, because then they aren't using my name! And I never felt that using my English name made me less cognizant or place less importance on my ethnic background. (FYI, I also went through the Asian-Canadian identity crisis, but didn't feel like my name was ever a point of conflict in my identity. But I can see how it would be problematic if you were using two different names at the same time. So I suggest you be consistent in the name you choose to be his main name.)

    On the other hand, I have a high school friend who has an English first name and a Japanese middle name. When she got to 6th or 7th grade, she decided that she preferred her Japanese name, which she has used ever since.

    I also know a number of Americans who have only English first and middle names, and prefer to use their middle name, and do so with minimal problems. So the order of the name being used in the string of names doesn't really matter.

    The bottom line is, to honor his origins, you should keep his Korean name. To honor your and your husband's origins, and to include him in your family, give him names that are reminiscent of both your heritages. And to help him fit into the place he now lives, give him a more American name. He'll eventually pick the one he wants to use, and if that happens to be a middle name, it won't be that big a deal in his real life.

  30. A lot good suggestions and interesting experiences. I'm of the keep the Korean name and add another of your choosing (any order) school of thought.
    I'm a 4th gen Japanese American who's parents both grew up in Japan til about middle school age(that's an interesting story in itself). I was given a Japanese first and an English middle name my only issue was that my first name was difficult to pronounce, so now I tend to be known by both names mainly my middle. My two younger brothers got easier to pronounce Japanese first names so they just use those. My first cousins are a mixed bunch in regards to first and middle names, but mostly go with their English names.
    We also grew up in Southern California close to the Japanese American community,and other Asian communities so I'm sure that helped. That was in the 70's and the size and numbers of asian communities have grown. I now live in a part of Orange County that has a large Korean, Indian, Chinese and Filipino comminitiy(makes for good eating). Currently my son is quite happy with his Japanese first name and there are quite a few Korean Americans in his school who go by their Korean or English first names.

  31. 1) Go Away with Me, my adoption agency, Eastern Child Welfare Society, is plenty reputable, but when I asked my Korean social worker, that information was not on file - but considering my birth mom didn't recognise that name, I'd say his guess that a social worker named me would be quite accurate. He also said that it is often the case. How do you know whether or not that straight-forward information is accurate or not? From your friends' adoptions, did they go confirm it with their bio mothers?

    2) Now that this post has me thinking about it, I think you should just give English names like a few other people suggest. It would be easier in the future for them to choose which they prefer - the name they were given at birth or the name the two people who raised them decided to give them. If you decide to give them mixed names, they don't really have the option to choose - just the option of what to be called. I think one day it should be the decision of your child, so the best thing to do is make it simpler for them.

  32. I think one should give the kid a first name that's recognizable to the culture he will spend most of his time in. It will make him feel more integrated into that culture. He can keep his Korean name as the middle name. That's what my parents decided to do and I'm perfectly happy with it.

  33. Anita, if you're asking how I know for a fact that an agency is telling the truth about who named the child, my honest answer would have to be that I don't know. But when you adopt, you have to take a bit of a leap of faith and accept many unknowns. Should adoptive parents NOT change a child's name if he was named by his birth mom? But if the child was named by her doctor or a social worker, then is the name any less important and therefore it's not as big a deal to change it? I'm not being a smartarse here. I'm actually wondering if this is what people may be wondering, because I can see how the different scenarios might play into this.

    I guess my question would be: What does an agency have to gain by claiming a birth parent named the child vs. a social worker having named the child? If they were going to fudge on facts, I would think it'd be more along the lines of claiming the child was healthier than he actually was or claiming that the birth parents' history was more romantic than it actually was. (Some of the information included in the referrals can be shocking.) I have heard adoptive parents worry about not being able to handle some of a child's special needs. I have never heard one worry that their child may have been named by someone other than their birth parent.

    To answer your other question, my friends' adopted children and my son are too young to confirm anything with their biological mothers. They're still toddlers. My son, at 13, may ask his agency for more information about his adoption. But until then, we won't even know if his birth mother is receiving the updated photos and letters we send for her.

  34. Our oppa's name is Dae Yeong (대영), he usually write his name in Dae Young (maybe to make people easier to pronounce "Young"). But he told me that when he was studying in America, people have a hard time to call his name correctly. He told people how to pronounce his name but people seems like cannot remember it at all. Instead, people always joking and call him "Die Young". So, after that, he chose an English name and added it to his Korean name.

    His brother has an easier name to pronounce (Jin Young 진영) therefore he don't have any English name.

    I myself is a Chinese Indonesian and i was given an English name. I have Chinese name but nobody call me using Chinese name and all my legal stuff (certificate of birth, etc) is using English name. Somehow, sometimes i am a little bit sad for not using my Chinese name (because it is a nice name). Sometimes i wish when people read my name, people can recognise me as a Chinese.

  35. i am not korean or chinese or any other type of foreigner and i havent adopted any foreign children, either. but i had to comment on this one! please, choose the name YOU like. dont worry one moment about what other people will say or do. my name is a very boring and easy name... Jessica Dennett. its simple, easy to spell and say. yet many many people cant write it, cant pronounce it (Dennett is seemingly incredibly hard to say the right way, but Bennett is easy.... go figure) and lots even made fun of it. no matter what name you choose, some people will be total dbags and make jokes. no matter what name you choose there will be morons who cant pronounce or spell it. and, personally, i have always found it strange when i meet someone who is so obviously descended from 'non american' (what ever that really means) folks saying 'hi, my name is Joe Smith, nice to meet you!' in a lovely asian/turkish/french/etc accent. i vote, go with any name you and your family likes best. screw the opposers!

  36. I chose to get rid of my foreign middle name when I was a teenager, instead picking the name of my grandmother on my mother's side. I haven't regretted it at all, because that name reminded me of a heritage I felt absolutely no connection to, and I felt like it set me apart from my family, friends and surroundings in general, because I was the only one that had a name that wasn't local. It wasn't even my first name, but just knowing it was on legal documents, and that people might see it and comment on it and make me feel like I didn't belong, or make me feel like I was nothing more than that foreign aspect of me, bothered me. I've always been fine with the way I look, but knowing I have the name to back up what I feel on the inside gave me a special kind of peace. Looking back on it, I wish I'd initially only received names my parents picked for me, not some stranger.

    There's no telling how your son will react to his Korean name, but if I were you, I would definitely have his first name be a name you chose especially for him, and that will make him feel like he belongs in the place he'll be growing up in.

  37. As an adoptee, I must say that I don't consider myself Korean beyond my appearance. For the first 13 years of my life, I was wildly unaware of how unusual it was for a Caucasian family to have an Asian daughter, and I whole-heartedly agree with dainty-empress' opinion that the name should come from the *parents* and not some stranger.

    That said, there's no reason you can't use the birth name as a starting point. My middle name is Kim, which was of course a nod to my birth name. My first name is Mia from Bo Mee. I'm really glad I wasn't named Bo...

  38. I'm Korean Australian, and when I was 17 I legally changed my name of my own accord. My parents are immigrants and did (wisely) suggest when I was transitioning from year 6 to highschool to change my name, but I was extremely stubborn in keeping my name. However, as I grew older I got sick and tired of people pronouncing my name wrong, mispelling my name, forgetting my name and pronouncing the first syllable of my name - nothing to do with being ashamed of being korean. I think people forgetting my name was the worst. My korean name is Hye-won (it was pronounced hi-one, real pronounication is Haewon ), and there was also the various admin head aches of having hypen/space/capitalisation in my various legal document. Not only was being called 'Hi' cringeworthy, but applying for any important document was frustrating because of all the different names.

  39. To simply name a Korean American child a Korean name based on principle alone is haughty and myopic. And it ultimately puts the so-called "integrity" of the parent ahead of the well-being of the child. To give a child in America an unamiguously ethnic name assumes that American society at large is colorblind and that all people are without prejudice and will make no preconceived notions about an individual based on race alone. Bullshit. All it takes is one racist asshole to dismiss the child's application to an elite school, or a lucrative corporate job or a mortgage application or a gazillion other situations in which MAJOR LIFE DECISIONS are made by other people. Why unnecessarily handicap a child's chances for success and prosperity in America by trotting out his/her race first? Is it that important for some douchebag parent to go around bragging to their douchebag friends that "yeah, I'm down with my people and I'm putting my kid in touch with his roots." Nobody is impressed. And the kid will probably resent you and will adopt some kind of bastardized Western variation of the ethnic name anyway. It's a story that has been told countless thousands of times already.

  40. When my older sister was born, they stuffed her Korean name (EunJi) into the middle, making her P. EunJi Kim.

    I was not given a Korean middle name. The only Korean part of my name is my last name. Coincidentally, my sister speaks Korean at a conversational level, and I don't speak at all. This is one of the reasons why my parents let me renounce Korean citizenship. Perhaps if a third child was born, it could be given a fully Korean name (no English whatsoever), and he would be a fluent Korean speaker!

    Naming your child could have more significance than you think...

  41. My mother is Korean and my dad is Italian, so they compromised with my name Gina which works for both cultures. I had my firstborn in 2011 and my husband and I gave our daughter a Korean middle name as well as an American first name and middle name.


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