Administrative divisions of south korea

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Administrative divisions
of South Korea
Provincial level
(道 도 do)
Autonomous province
(特別自治道 특별자치도 teukbyeol-jachido)
Special city
(特別市 특별시 teukbyeol-si)
Metropolitan cities
(廣域市 광역시 gwangyeok-si)
Municipal level
(市 시 si)
(郡 군 gun)
(區 구 gu)
(邑 읍 eup)
(面 면 myeon)
(洞 동 dong)
(里 리 ri)
South Korea
Image:Coat of arms of South Korea.svg

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South Korea is divided into 8 provinces (do), 1 special autonomous province (teukbyeol jachido), 6 metropolitan cities (gwangyeoksi), and 1 special city (teukbyeolsi). These are further subdivided into a variety of smaller entities, including cities (si), counties (gun), districts (gu), towns (eup), townships (myeon), neighborhoods (dong) and villages (ri), as explained below.

(Note on translation: although the terms "Special City," "Metropolitan City," "Province," and "City" are commonly used on English-language government websites, the other translations ("county," "town," "district," etc.) are not official translations, and are only intended to serve as useful illustrations of each entity's meaning.)


Local government

Korean terms appear in their official Revised Romanization of Korean spelling.

  • Do (도) Province
    • Gun (군) "County" (under 150,000)
      • Eup (읍) "Town"
        • Ri (리) "Village"
      • Myeon (면) "Township"
        • Ri (리) "Village"
    • Si (시) City (between 150,000 and 500,000)
      • Dong (동) "Neighborhood"
    • Si (시) City (over 500,000)
      • Gu (구) "District"
        • Dong (동) "Neighborhood"
  • Gwangyeoksi (광역시) Metropolitan City
    • Gu (구) "District"
      • Dong {동) "Neighborhood"
    • Gun (군) "County"
  • Teukbyeolsi (특별시) Special City
    • Gu (구) "District"
      • Dong {동) "Neighborhood"

Do ("Province"; 도; )

A "do" is one of the primary divisions of the country, along with "teukbyeolsi" and "gwangyeoksi." South Korea has 8 provinces and one special autonomous province (teukbyeoljachido; 특별자치도; 特別自治道):

  • North Chungcheong Province (Chungcheongbuk-do; 충청북도; 忠清北道)
  • South Chungcheong Province (Chungcheongnam-do; 충청남도; 忠清南道)
  • Gangwon Province (Gangwon-do; 강원도; 江原道)
  • Gyeonggi Province (Gyeonggi-do; 경기도; 京畿道)
  • North Gyeongsang Province (Gyeongsangbuk-do; 경상북도; 慶尙北道)
  • South Gyeongsang Province (Gyeongsangnam-do; 경상남도; 慶尙南道)
  • North Jeolla Province (Jeollabuk-do; 전라북도; 全羅北道)
  • South Jeolla Province (Jeollanam-do; 전라남도; 全羅南道)
  • Jeju Special Autonomous Province (Jeju Teukbyeol Jachido; 제주특별자치도; 濟州特別自治道)

Each province is subdivided into cities ("si") and counties ("gun").

Gwangyeoksi ("Metropolitan City"; 광역시; 廣域市)

A "gwangyeoksi" is one of the primary divisions of the country, along with "teukbyeolsi" and "do." South Korea has 6 metropolitan cities with self-governing provincial status:

  • Busan Metropolitan City (Busan Gwangyeoksi; 부산광역시; 釜山廣域市)
  • Daegu Metropolitan City (Daegu Gwangyeoksi; 대구광역시; 大邱廣域市)
  • Incheon Metropolitan City (Incheon Gwangyeoksi; 인천광역시; 仁川廣域市)
  • Gwangju Metropolitan City (Gwangju Gwangyeoksi; 광주광역시; 光州廣域市)
  • Daejeon Metropolitan City (Daejeon Gwangyeoksi; 대전광역시; 大田廣域市)
  • Ulsan Metropolitan City (Ulsan Gwangyeoksi; 울산광역시; 蔚山廣域市)

Gwangju and Daejeon are divided into wards ("gu") only; the rest are divided into wards ("gu") and outlying counties ("gun").

Teukbyeolsi ("Special City"; 특별시; 特別市)

A "teukbyeolsi" is one of the primary divisions of the country, along with gwangyeoksi and do. South Korea has only one special city: Seoul (서울). Seoul is divided into wards ("gu").

Si ("City"; 시; )

A "si" is one of the divisions of a province, along with "gun." Cities have a population of at least 150,000; once a county ("gun") attains that population, it becomes a city (Gijang county in Busan is an exception). Cities with a population of over 500,000 (such as Suwon, Cheongju, and Jeonju) are divided into wards ("gu"); Changwon is a noticeable exception to this rule. Gus are then further divided into neighborhoods ("dong"); cities with a population of less than 500,000 do not have wards – these cities are directly divided into neighborhoods ("dong").

Gun ("County"; 군; )

A "gun" 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. Counties are divided into towns ("eup") and districts ("myeon").

Gu ("District"; 구; )

Most cities are divided into "gu"s, though the metropolitan cities of Busan, Daegu, Incheon and Ulsan contain "gun"s as well. "Gu"s 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"s are divided into neighborhoods ("dong").

Eup ("Town"; 읍; )

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"s. Towns are subdivided into villages ("ri"). In order to form an eup, the minimum population required is 20,000.

Myeon ("Township"; 면; )

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

Dong ("Neighborhood"; 동; )

A dong is the primary division of wards (gu), and of those cities (si) which are not divided into wards. 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 dongs 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; ), but divisions at this level and below are seldom used in daily life. Some populous dong are subdivided into ga (가; ), 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.

Ri ("Village"; 리; )

A "ri" is the only division of towns ("eup") and districts ("myeon"). The "ri" is the smallest level of rural government to contain any significant number of people.


Although the details of local administration have changed dramatically 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.

Proposed future changes

In late April 2005, the governing Uri and leading opposition Hannara parties agreed to a sweeping change in the country's local administration. This reform, tentatively slated to take place in 2010, would replace the current three-tier system with a two-tier system. The existing provinces (do) and metropolitan cities (gwangyeoksi) would be eliminated. The current gu, si, and gun units would be reorganized into about 60 "metropolitan cities" with a population of roughly 1 million each. Beyond this, the details of the reform have not been decided. Opposition is likely from politicians and constituent groups who will be disadvantaged by the changes. (Sources: Korea Times [1], Korea Herald [2]).

See also

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