Special cities of North Korea

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North Korean Special Cities
북한 특별 도시(Korean)
bughan teugbyeol dosi(Romanized)
Directly Governed Cities North Korea.png
Category Unitary State
Location Democratic People's Republic of Korea
Number 4 Special Cities
Populations 205,000 (Rason) – 3,255,388 (Pyongyang)
Areas 710 square miles (1,800 km2) (Rason) – 400 square miles (1,000 km2) (Pyongyang)
Government Single-Party Government
Subdivisions District, County

Special cities are one of the first-level administrative division within North Korea. There are 3 top-level cities in North Korea: Pyongyang, Rason and Nampo.

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 Level City names No. of cities
Direct-administered city 직할시 直轄市 Chikhalsi First Pyongyang 1
Special city 특별시 特別市 T'ŭkpyŏlsi First Rason, Nampo 2
Special-level city 특급시 特級市 T'ŭkkŭpsi Second 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 come from South Korea, refer the city as a special city; however these are the 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