Administrative divisions of South Korea

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This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
South Korea

South Korea is divided into 8 provinces (do 도/道), 1 special autonomous province (teukbyeol jachido 특별자치도/特別自治道), 6 metropolitan cities (gwangyeoksi 광역시/廣域市), and 1 special city (teukbyeolsi 특별시/特別市). 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), 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[edit]

Official Revised Romanization of Korean spellings are used

Level Group name Type Hangul Hanja RR Romaja No.
1 Upper level local autonomy
Province do 8
Special self-governing province 특별 자치도 特別自治道 teukbyeol-jachido 1
Special city 특별시 特別市 teukbyeolsi 1
Metropolitan autonomous city 특별 자치시 特別自治市 teukbyeol-jachisi 1
Metropolitan city 광역시 廣域市 gwangyeoksi 6
2 Lower level local autonomy
City si 60
City (specific) (특정시) (特定市) si (teukjeongsi) 15
City (administrative) (행정시) (行政市) si (haengjeongsi) 2
County gun 82
District (autonomous) (자치구) (自治區)) gu (jachigu) 69
N/A District (non-autonomous) (일반구) (一般區) gu (ilbangu) 35
3 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)
4 N/A Urban Village tong
Rural Village ri
5 N/A Hamlet ban

Provincial-level divisions[edit]

The top tier of administrative divisions are the provincial-level divisions, of which there are five types: provinces, special autonomous provinces, special cities, metropolitan cities and special autonomous cities. The governors of the provincial-level divisions are elected every four years.

Map Code Name Hangul Hanja
KR-11 Seoul special city 서울특별시 서울特別市
KR-26 Busan metropolitan city 부산광역시 釜山廣域市
KR-27 Daegu metropolitan city 대구광역시 大邱廣域市
KR-28 Incheon metropolitan city 인천광역시 仁川廣域市
KR-29 Gwangju metropolitan city 광주광역시 光州廣域市
KR-30 Daejeon metropolitan city 대전광역시 大田廣域市
KR-31 Ulsan metropolitan city 울산광역시 蔚山廣域市
KR-50 Sejong metropolitan autonomous city 세종특별자치시 世宗特別自治市
KR-41 Gyeonggi Province 경기도 京畿道
KR-42 Gangwon Province 강원도 江原道
KR-43 North Chungcheong Province 충청북도 忠淸北道
KR-44 South Chungcheong Province 충청남도 忠淸南道
KR-45 North Jeolla Province 전라북도 全羅北道
KR-46 South Jeolla Province 전라남도 全羅南道
KR-47 North Gyeongsang Province 경상북도 慶尙北道
KR-48 South Gyeongsang Province 경상남도 慶尙南道
KR-49 Jeju special self-governing province 제주특별자치도 濟州特別自治道

Municipal-level divisions[edit]

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

Si (city)[edit]

A si (시; 市) 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 districts (gu); Gimhae, Hwaseong and Namyangju are noticeable exceptions 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)[edit]

Further information: List of counties in South Korea

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 districts (myeon). Specially, the size of "gun" is less then "county" of US.

Gu (district)[edit]

A gu (구; 區) is equivalent to district in the West. Most cities are divided into gu, though 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 divisions[edit]

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.[1] 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.[2]

Ri (village)[edit]

A ri (리; 里) 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.[3]


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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ (in Korean). Nate / Encyclopedia of Korean Culture. Retrieved 2013-03-18. 
  2. ^ "부산광역시 법정 동·리(洞·里) 현황 Busan city administrative units". Busan City. Retrieved 2013-03-18. 
  3. ^ 이 / 里 (in Korean). Nate / Encyclopedia of Korean Culture. Retrieved 2013-03-18. 

External links[edit]