Administrative divisions of South Korea

South Korea is made up of 17 first-tier administrative divisions: 6 metropolitan cities (gwangyeoksi 광역시/廣域市), 1 special city (teukbyeolsi 특별시/特別市), 1 special self-governing city (teukbyeol-jachisi 특별자치시/特別自治市), and 9 provinces (do 도/道), including one special self-governing province (teukbyeol jachido 특별자치도/特別自治道).[1][2] These are further subdivided into a variety of smaller entities, including cities (si 시/市), counties (gun 군/郡), districts (gu 구/區), towns (eup 읍/邑), townships (myeon 면/面), neighborhoods (dong 동/洞) and villages (ri 리/里).[3]

Local governmentEdit

Official Revised Romanization of Korean spellings are used

Level Group name Type Hangul Hanja RR Romaja No.
1 Upper-level local autonomy[4]
Province do 8
Special self-governing province 특별자치도 特別自治道 teukbyeol-jachido 1
Special city 특별시 特別市 teukbyeolsi 1
Special self-governing city 특별자치시 特別自治市 teukbyeol-jachisi 1
Metropolitan city 광역시 廣域市 gwangyeoksi 6
2 Lower-level local autonomy[4]
City si 60
City (specific) (특정시) (特定市) si (teukjeongsi) 15
County gun 82
District (autonomous) (자치구) (自治區) gu (jachigu) 69
3 N/A City (administrative) (행정시) (行政市) si (haengjeongsi) 2
District (non-autonomous) (일반구) (一般區) gu (ilbangu) 35
4 N/A Town eup 216
Township myeon 1198
Neighborhood (legal-status) (법정동) (法定洞) dong (beopjeongdong) 2073
Neighborhood (administrative) (행정동) (行政洞) dong (haengjeongdong)
5 N/A Urban Village tong
Rural Village ri
6 N/A Hamlet ban

Provincial-level divisionsEdit

The top tier of administrative divisions are the provincial-level divisions, of which there are several types: provinces (including special self-governing provinces), metropolitan cities, special cities, and special self-governing cities. The governors of the provincial-level divisions are elected every four years.[2]

Code Emblem Name Official English name[5] Hangul Hanja Population
2020 Census
KR-11 Seoul special city Seoul 서울특별시 서울特別市 9,586,195 605.20
KR-26 Busan metropolitan city Busan 부산광역시 釜山廣域市 3,349,016 770.04
KR-27 Daegu metropolitan city Daegu 대구광역시 大邱廣域市 2,410,700 883.49
KR-28 Incheon metropolitan city Incheon 인천광역시 仁川廣域市 2,945,454 1,062.63
KR-29 Gwangju metropolitan city Gwangju 광주광역시 光州廣域市 1,477,573 501.24
KR-30 Daejeon metropolitan city Daejeon 대전광역시 大田廣域市 1,488,435 539.85
KR-31 Ulsan metropolitan city Ulsan 울산광역시 蔚山廣域市 1,135,423 1,057.14
KR-50 Sejong special self-governing city Sejong Special Self-Governing City 세종특별자치시 世宗特別自治市 346,275 465.23
KR-41 Gyeonggi Province Gyeonggi-do 경기도 京畿道 13,511,676 10,184
KR-42 Gangwon Province Gangwon-do 강원도 江原道 1,521,763 16,875
KR-43 North Chungcheong Province Chungcheongbuk-do 충청북도 忠淸北道 1,632,088 7,433
KR-44 South Chungcheong Province Chungcheongnam-do 충청남도 忠淸南道 2,176,636 8,204
KR-45 North Jeolla Province Jeollabuk-do 전라북도 全羅北道 1,802,766 8,067
KR-46 South Jeolla Province Jeollanam-do 전라남도 全羅南道 1,788,807 12,247
KR-47 North Gyeongsang Province Gyeongsangbuk-do 경상북도 慶尙北道 2,644,757 19,030
KR-48 South Gyeongsang Province Gyeongsangnam-do 경상남도 慶尙南道 3,333,056 10,533
KR-49 Jeju special self-governing province Jeju Special Self-Governing Province 제주특별자치도 濟州特別自治道 670,858 1,849

Municipal-level divisionsEdit

A map of all South Korean metropolitan cities' districts (gu), municipal cities (si), and counties (gun).

Si (city)Edit

A si (시; 市, pronounced [ɕi]) is one of the divisions of a province, along with gun. A city must have a neighborhood(dong) and can have towns(eup), townships(myeon) if the city is combined with urban and rural areas. Once an eup of a county (gun) attains a population of 50,000, the county can become a city. A city with a population of over 500,000 (such as Suwon, Cheongju, Cheonan and Jeonju) is considered as a specific city, which can set non-autonomous districts(gu). An administrative city doesn't have a city council and the mayor of the city is appointed by the provincial governor.

Gun (county)Edit

A gun (군; 郡) is one of the divisions of a province (along with si), and of the metropolitan cities of Busan, Daegu, Incheon and Ulsan (along with gu). A gun has a population of less than 150,000 (more than that would make it a city or si), is less densely populated than a gu, and is more rural in character than either of the other 2 divisions. Gun are comparable to British non-metropolitan districts. Counties are divided into towns (eup) and townships (myeon). Specially, the size of a "gun" is less than a US "county".

Gu (district)Edit

A gu (구; 區) is equivalent to district in the West. The metropolitan cities of Busan, Daegu, Incheon and Ulsan contain gun as well. Gu are similar to boroughs in some Western countries, and a gu office handles many of the functions that would be handled by the city in other jurisdictions. Gu are divided into neighborhoods (dong).

Submunicipal level divisionsEdit

Eup (town)Edit

An eup (읍; 邑) is similar to the unit of town. Along with myeon, an eup is one of the divisions of a county (gun), and of some cities (si) with a population of less than 500,000. The main town or towns in a county—or the secondary town or towns within a city's territory—are designated as eup. Towns are subdivided into villages (ri). In order to form an eup, the minimum population required is 20,000.

Myeon (township)Edit

A myeon (면; 面) is one of the divisions – along with eup – of a county (gun) and some cities (si) of fewer than 500,000 population. Myeons have smaller populations than eup and represent the rural areas of a county or city. Myeon are subdivided into villages (ri). The minimum population limit is 6,000.

Dong (neighborhood)Edit

A dong (동; 洞) is the primary division of districts (gu), and of those cities (si) which are not divided into districts. The dong is the smallest level of urban government to have its own office and staff. In some cases, a single legal dong is divided into several administrative dong. Administrative dong are usually distinguished from one another by number (as in the case of Myeongjang 1-dong and Myeongjang 2-dong). In such cases, each administrative dong has its own office and staff.

The primary division of a dong is the tong (통; 統), but divisions at this level and below are seldom used in daily life.[6] Some populous dong are subdivided into ga (가; 街), which are not a separate level of government, but only exist for use in addresses. Many major thoroughfares in Seoul, Suwon, and other cities are also subdivided into ga.[7]

Ri (village)Edit

A ri (리; 里) is the only division of towns (eup) and townships (myeon). The ri is the smallest level of rural government to contain any significant number of people.[8]


Although the details of local administration have changed over time, the basic outline of the current three-tiered system was implemented under the reign of Gojong in 1895. A similar system also remains in use in North Korea.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Administrative division". South Korea Government. Archived from the original on June 1, 2008. Retrieved 30 April 2018.
  2. ^ a b "Local Governments". Retrieved 30 April 2018.
  3. ^ Stevens, Andrew. "Seoul Mayor first among equals". City Mayors. Retrieved 30 April 2018.
  4. ^ a b "Local Governments". Retrieved 30 April 2018.
  5. ^ Archived 2017-03-12 at the Wayback Machine, p. 41.
  6. ^ (in Korean). Nate / Encyclopedia of Korean Culture. Archived from the original on 2013-04-11. Retrieved 2013-03-18.
  7. ^ "부산광역시 법정 동·리(洞·里) 현황 Busan city administrative units". Busan City. Archived from the original on 2012-05-18. Retrieved 2013-03-18.
  8. ^ 이 / 里 (in Korean). Nate / Encyclopedia of Korean Culture. Archived from the original on 2013-04-11. Retrieved 2013-03-18.

External linksEdit