Progenitor of 4 Million Gimhae Kim Clan
A Korean word “bongwan(본관)” refers to the area where ancestors lived or the area of origin. Simply put, it is the ancestral home.
One of the most common family names in Korea is Kim. Ancestors of a particular Kim clan lived in Gimhae in southeastern Korea. That is, Gimhae is the bongwan of this Kim clan. The Gimhae Kim clan makes up the largest portion of all Kims in the country.
The origin of the Gimhae Kim clan dates back to a very remote period. The progenitor of the Gimhae Kim clan was King Kim Suro, who founded the ancient Korean kingdom of Gaya in the Nokdong River basin.
Today, as many as four million Koreans are the descendants of this king. Who is King Kim Suro?
Coming down from Heaven with “Gujiga Song”
Show me your head
If you don’t,
I’ll grill you and eat you
-From Gujiga Song
The Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms, a history book written in the Goryeo period, includes a section describing the history of the Gaya Kingdom. According to this section or the History of Gaya, King Kim Suro was born in March in 44 A.D. There is a legend about his birth.
“When the sky was open, the state on this land had no name. There were no titles referring to the king and retainers, either. Only nine tribe chiefs led common people. One day, a strange sound was heard from a mountaintop called Guji(구지) located in the northern part of the land, and two or three hundred people gathered there. What they heard was ‘Heaven ordered me to establish a new kingdom and rule people here, so I will come down. You will jump for joy, singing the Gujiga song, as you greet the new king.’ ”
The History of Gaya also describes the scene of an ancient folk ritual dedicated to hailing a king. “After a while, a red rope hung down to the ground from the sky. At the end of the rope were six golden eggs wrapped in red cloth. The next morning, baby sons were born in the six eggs. The first born was named Suro, meaning “appear first.” The kingdom founded by him was called Gaya.”
The legend about the king’s birth is somewhat similar to those of Park Hyeokgeose(박혁거세) and Jumong, the founders of ancient Korean kingdoms of Silla and Goguryeo, respectively. But the story of the simultaneous appearances of six eggs indicates that Gaya was sort of a federal state.
Benevolent Rule for the People
Four years after Kim Suro became the king of Gaya, a ship with a red sail came from the sea in the southwest. A woman got off the ship and the king greeted her himself. The woman identified herself as Huh Hwang-ok(허황옥), a princess from the Ayodhya Kingdom. She said that in her parent’s dream, heaven ordered her to go to King Kim Suro to become his queen. It is said that the Ayodhya Kingdom was a local state of India.
After marrying the princess from India, King Kim Suro rearranged the state system. He won the hearts of the public with more benevolent rule than before.
It is recorded in the History of Gaya that the king ruled his family and country well and loved the people as if they were his own children. The account also describes that the king’s rule was not strict but still had strength and dignity so people voluntarily obeyed the king.
The queen passed away in March in the year 189 at the age of 157. The king let her go on the Gujibong(구지봉) hills, where the Gujiga song was chanted. The king lamented over the death of his beloved queen for ten years before he also died in March 199. He was 158.
Around this time of year, descendants of the Gimhae Kim clan hold an ancestral memorial rite at the tomb of King Kim Suro, located in Seosang-dong(서상동), Gimhae in South Gyeongsang Province, to honor their progenitor.