Special cities of North Korea

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Special city
Directly Governed Cities North Korea.png
CategoryUnitary State
LocationDemocratic People's Republic of Korea
Number4 Special Cities
Populations205,000 (Rason) – 3,255,388 (Pyongyang)
Areas710 square miles (1,800 km2) (Rason) – 400 square miles (1,000 km2) (Pyongyang)
GovernmentSingle-Party Government
SubdivisionsDistrict, County
This article is part of a series on the
Administrative divisions of North Korea
Provincial level
( to)
Direct-administered city
(직할시 直轄市 chikhalsi)
Special city
(특별시 特別市 t'ŭkpyŏlsi)
Municipal level
Special-level city
(특급시 特級市 t'ŭkkŭpsi)
( si)
( kun)
(구역 區域 kuyŏk)
( ku)
(지구 地區 chigu)
Submunicipal level
( ŭp)
( tong)
( ri)
Workers' District [ko]
(로동자구 勞動者區 rodongjagu)

Special cities are one of the first-level administrative divisions within North Korea. There are two top-level cities in North Korea: Pyongyang and Rason.

Position in hierarchy and types[edit]

Special cities are the higher-ranked administrative divisions in North Korea. There are three kinds of special cities in North Korea.

Type Chosongul Hanja McCune–Reischauer City names No. of cities
Direct-administered city 직할시 直轄市 Chikhalsi Pyongyang 1
Special city 특별시 特別市 T'ŭkpyŏlsi Rason, Nampo 2
Special-level city 특급시 特級市 T'ŭkkŭpsi Kaesong 1

The first level cities have equal status to the provinces.

List of special cities[edit]

Name Chosongul Hanja Type ISO Population Area
Capital Region Province
Year of
Pyongyang 평양직할시 平壤直轄市 Directly-administered city KP-01 3,255,388 3,194 1,019 Chung-guyok Kwanso South Pyongan 1946
Rason 라선특별시 羅先特別市 Special city KP-13 205,000 746 275 Rajin-guyok Kwanbuk North Hamgyong 2010
Nampo 남포특별시 南浦特別市 Special city KP-?? 366,815 829 442 Waudo-guyok Kwanso South Pyongan 2011
Kaesong 개성특급시 開城特級市 Special-level city none 308,440 1,309 235 Haeso North Hwanghae 2003
  • Pyongyang is classified as a capital city (chikhalsi), not a special city as Seoul in South Korea. In fact, the North Korean national newspaper and broadcasting say "Pyongyang Chikhalsi". Some sources, most of them coming from South Korea, refer the city as a special city; however, these are old sources. Moreover, South Korea has corrected the city as a directly governed city, according to a South Korean newspaper in 1994. Also note that the official name of Pyongyang would be "Pyongyang-si" in the Republic of Korea, which officially claims to represent the entire peninsula.
  • Special-level city is the second level administrative division. Kaesong is still a part of North Hwanghae Province.
  • Namp'o is officially part of South Pyongan province.

List of defunct special cities[edit]

Division name Chosongul Hancha Province absorb into Administered Years
Chongjin 청진시 淸津市 North Hamgyong 1960–1967, 1977–1985
Hamhung 함흥시 咸興市 South Hamgyong 1960–1967

See also[edit]


The sources for this section are Chosun Ilbo's pages 행정구역 현황 ("Haengjeong Guyeok Hyeonhwang") and 행정구역 개편 일지 ("Haengjeong Guyeok Gaepyeon Ilji") (in Korean only; updated 2004).

Further reading[edit]

  • Dormels, Rainer. North Korea's Cities: Industrial facilities, internal structures and typification. Jimoondang, 2014. ISBN 978-89-6297-167-5