Special cities of South Korea

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Special cities are one of the first-level administrative division within South Korea. There are 8 first-level cities in South Korea: Busan, Daegu, Daejeon, Gwangju, Incheon, Sejong, Seoul and Ulsan.

Position in hierarchy and Types[edit]

Special cities are the highest-ranked administrative divisions in South Korea. These cities have equal status to the provinces. There are three kinds of first-level city in South Korea.

Type Hangul Hanja RR City names No. of cities
Special city teukbyeol-si Seoul 1
Metropolitan cities gwangyeok-si Busan, Daegu, Daejeon, Gwangju, Incheon, Ulsan 6
Special autonomous city teukbyeoljachi-si Sejong 1
  • Seoul was designated a "special free city" (teukbyeol jayusi; 특별자유시; 特別自由市) separate from Gyeonggi Province on August 15, 1946; it became a "special city" on August 15, 1949.[1]
  • Metropolitan cities were called "directly-administered city" (jikhalsi; 직할시; 直轄市) before 1995.


In South Korean special city and metropolitan cities, the Mayor is the highest-ranking official in charge. The Mayor is directly elected by the people registered in the city for a duration of four years. e.g. Mayor of Seoul.

List of special cities[edit]

Name Hangul Hanja Type ISO Population Area
Capital Region Province
split from
Year of
Busan 부산광역시 釜山廣域市 Metropolitan city KR-26 3,574,340 766 4,666 Yeonje District Yeongnam South Gyeongsang 1963
Daegu 대구광역시 大邱廣域市 Metropolitan city KR-27 2,512,604 884 2,842 Jung District Yeongnam North Gyeongsang 1981
Daejeon 대전광역시 大田廣域市 Metropolitan city KR-30 1,442,857 540 2,673 Seo District Hoseo South Chungcheong 1989
Gwangju 광주광역시 光州廣域市 Metropolitan city KR-29 1,415,953 501 2,824 Seo District Honam South Jeolla 1986
Incheon 인천광역시 仁川廣域市 Metropolitan city KR-28 2,710,579 965 2,810 Namdong District Sudogwon Gyeonggi 1981
Sejong 세종특별자치시 世宗特別自治市 Special autonomous city KR-50 122,263 465 380 Hansol-dong Hoseo South Chungcheong 2012
Seoul 서울특별시 서울特別市* Special city KR-11 10,464,051 605 17,288 Jung District Sudogwon Gyeonggi 1946
Ulsan 울산광역시 蔚山廣域市 Metropolitan city KR-31 1,126,879 1,056 1,030 Nam District Yeongnam South Gyeongsang 1997
  • There is no hanja for "Seoul," but in Chinese, it is written by its Joseon Dynasty name Hanseong (韓城). The new Chinese name, 首爾/首尔, is a transcription based on the pronunciation of "Seoul". As a suffix, the character gyeong () is used, which means "capital".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 행정연혁 (in Korean). Seoul Metropolitan Government. Retrieved 15 March 2013.