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Yu (also spelled Yoo or You, or sometimes Ryu or Ryoo) is the English transcription of several Korean surnames written as or in Hangul. Some of the family names written as Yoo are derived from the Chinese surnames 劉 or 柳 (Liu) and 兪 (Yu). As of 2000, roughly a million people are surnamed Yoo in South Korea, making up approximately 2% of the population. Of those, the most common is Ryu (Hanja:柳, Hangul:류),[1] with more than six hundred thousand holders, whereas Yu (Hanja:兪, Hangul:유) accounts for about one hundred thousand.

Yu or Ryu
유 or 류
Revised RomanizationYu or Ryu
McCune–ReischauerYu or Ryu

The family name Yoo can be represented by any of the four Hanja: 柳(류), 劉, 兪 and 庾, each with a different meaning. In Korean, only the character 柳 specifically refers to 류 (Ryu) or 유 (Yoo), whereas the characters 劉, 兪 and 庾 refers to 유 (Yu) and is spelled as such; because of its First Initial Sound Rule (두음 법칙).

Surname: Hanja: / , Hangul: 유,류 Pinyin: Liú. A very common surname, as it was used by the ruling family of the Han Dynasty.

Notable 柳 (Ryu) clans include the Ryu clan of Munhwa and the Pungsan Ryoo.


According to Chinese legend, Yoo is an ancient Chinese surname. The ancestors of the surname were closely linked with the ancient sage-king named Yu Shun. In Korea, the Yoo lineage traces to the Xia, Han, and Joseon dynasties. Holders of the surname Yu or Yoo had a reputation for charity and diligence. Some sources indicate the existence of as many as 230 clans, but only about twenty have been be positively documented, several of Chinese origin.

The largest Ryu clan, the Munhwa Ryu, was founded by a man named Ch’a Tal. Ch’a’s fifth great-grandfather had been involved in an attempt to overthrow the Silla king. To avoid prosecution, the ancestor fled to Munhwa and changed his surname, first to that of his maternal grandmother, Yang, and then to Ryoo. Many years later, Ch’a Tal assisted Wang Kŏn to establish the Koryŏ Kingdom. Ch’a was recognized for his support and was rewarded accordingly. However, the historic claims that the Ch'a clans are derived from the same progenitor as Ryu Ch'a-dal have been disproven. The Munhwa Ryoo clan, along with the Andong Kwŏn clan, possess one of Korea's oldest clan genealogies. Only the character 柳 is commonly pronounced Ryu or Ryoo (류). (See Munhwa Ryoo) The surname "Ryoo" comes from the character meaning willow tree. Hence, the lineage is also sometimes called "willow Ryoo" (버들 류씨).

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  1. ^ rank 19th with 603,084 people, KOSTAT(Korea National Statistical Office), 2000.

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