Administrative divisions of South Korea

Governing Units of South Korea

South Korea is made up of 17 first-tier administrative divisions: 6 metropolitan cities (gwangyeoksi 광역시/廣域市), 1 special city (teukbyeolsi 특별시/特別市), 1 special self-governing city (teukbyeol-jachisi 특별자치시/特別自治市), and 9 provinces (do 도/道), including one special self-governing province (teukbyeol jachido 특별자치도/特別自治道).[1][2] 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).[3]

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[4]
Province do 8
Special self-governing province 특별자치도 特別自治道 teukbyeol-jachido 1
Special city 특별시 特別市 teukbyeolsi 1
Special self-governing city 특별자치시 特別自治市 teukbyeol-jachisi 1
Metropolitan city 광역시 廣域市 gwangyeoksi 6
2 Lower level local autonomy[4]
City si 60
City (specific) (특정시) (特定市) si (teukjeongsi) 15
County gun 82
District (autonomous) (자치구) (自治區) gu (jachigu) 69
3 N/A City (administrative) (행정시) (行政市) si (haengjeongsi) 2
District (non-autonomous) (일반구) (一般區) gu (ilbangu) 35
4 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)
5 N/A Urban Village tong
Rural Village ri
6 N/A Hamlet ban

Provincial-level divisions[edit]

The top tier of administrative divisions are the provincial-level divisions, of which there are several types: provinces (including special self-governing provinces), metropolitan cities, special cities, and special self-governing cities. The governors of the provincial-level divisions are elected every four years.[2] Sejong special self-governing city and Jeju special self-governing province don’t contain any lower level local autonomy.

Map Code Emblem Name Official English name[5] Hangul Hanja Population Area (km2)
Logo of Seoul, South Korea.svg
Seoul special city Seoul 서울특별시 特別市 9,765,869 605.21 km2
Symbol of Busan.svg
Busan metropolitan city Busan 부산광역시 釜山廣域市 3,411,829 770.04 km2
Symbol of Daegu.svg
Daegu metropolitan city Daegu 대구광역시 大邱廣域市 2,446,144 883.49 km2
Seal of Incheon.svg
Incheon metropolitan city Incheon 인천광역시 仁川廣域市 2,954,955 1,062.63 km2
Seal of Gwangju.svg
Gwangju metropolitan city Gwangju 광주광역시 光州廣域市 1,490,092 501.24 km2
Seal of Daejeon.svg
Daejeon metropolitan city Daejeon 대전광역시 大田廣域市 1,508,120 539.85 km2
Symbol of Ulsan.svg
Ulsan metropolitan city Ulsan 울산광역시 蔚山廣域市 1,163,690 1,057.136 km2
Symbol of Sejong.png
Sejong special self-governing city Sejong Special Self-Governing City 세종특별자치시 世宗特別自治市 351,007 465.23 km2
Emblem of Gyeonggi Province (2021).svg
Gyeonggi Province Gyeonggi-do 경기도 京畿道 13,413,459 10,184 km2
Seal of Gangwon.svg
Gangwon Province Gangwon-do 강원도 江原道 1,564,615 16,875 km2
Seal of North Chungcheong.svg
North Chungcheong Province Chungcheongbuk-do 충청북도 忠淸北道 1,578,934 7,433 km2
Seal of South Chungcheong.svg
South Chungcheong Province Chungcheongnam-do 충청남도 忠淸南道 2,059,871 8,204 km2
Symbol of Jeonbuk.svg
North Jeolla Province Jeollabuk-do 전라북도 全羅北道 1,869,711 8,067 km2
Seal of South Jeolla.svg
South Jeolla Province Jeollanam-do 전라남도 全羅南道 1,902,324 12,247 km2
Seal of North Gyeongsang.svg
North Gyeongsang Province Gyeongsangbuk-do 경상북도 慶尙北道 2,700,328 19,030 km2
Seal of South Gyeongsang.svg
South Gyeongsang Province Gyeongsangnam-do 경상남도 慶尙南道 3,447,687 10,533 km2
Logo of Jeju Province, South Korea.svg
Jeju special self-governing province Jeju Special Self-Governing Province 제주특별자치도 濟州特別自治道 604,771 1,849 km2

Municipal-level divisions[edit]

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

Si (city)[edit]

A si (시; 市, pronounced [ɕi]) is one of the divisions of a province, along with gun. A city must have a neighborhood(dong) and can have towns(eup), townships(myeon) if the city is combined with urban and rural areas. Once an eup of a county (gun) attains a population of 50,000, the county can become a city. A city with a population of over 500,000 (such as Suwon, Cheongju, Cheonan and Jeonju) is considered as a specific city, which can set non-autonomous districts(gu). An administrative city doesn’t have a city council and the mayor of the city is appointed by the provincial governor.

Gun (county)[edit]

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 townships (myeon). Specially, the size of a “gun” is less than a US “county”.

Gu (district)[edit]

A gu (구; 區) is equivalent to district in the West. 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.[6] 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.[7]

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.[8]


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]


External links[edit]