Administrative divisions of South Korea

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

Official Revised Romanization of Korean spellings are used

LevelGroup nameTypeHangulHanjaRR RomajaNo.
1Upper level local autonomy
Special self-governing province특별 자치도特別自治道teukbyeol-jachido1
Special city특별시特別市teukbyeolsi1
Metropolitan autonomous city특별 자치시特別自治市teukbyeol-jachisi1
Metropolitan city광역시廣域市gwangyeoksi6
2Lower level local autonomy
City (specific)(특정시)(特定市)si (teukjeongsi)15
District (autonomous)(자치구)(自治區))gu (jachigu)69
N/ACity (administrative)(행정시)(行政市)si (haengjeongsi)2
District (non-autonomous)(일반구)(一般區)gu (ilbangu)35
Neighborhood (legal-status)(법정동)(法定洞)dong (beopjeongdong)2073
Neighborhood (administrative)(행정동)(行政洞)dong (haengjeongdong)
4N/AUrban Villagetong
Rural Villageri

Provincial-level divisions

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.

Seoul special city서울특별시서울特別市
Busan metropolitan city부산광역시釜山廣域市
KR-27Daegu metropolitan city대구광역시大邱廣域市
KR-28Incheon metropolitan city인천광역시仁川廣域市
KR-29Gwangju metropolitan city광주광역시光州廣域市
KR-30Daejeon metropolitan city대전광역시大田廣域市
Ulsan metropolitan city울산광역시蔚山廣域市
Sejong metropolitan autonomous city세종특별자치시世宗特別自治市
Gyeonggi Province경기도京畿道
KR-42Gangwon Province강원도江原道
KR-43North Chungcheong Province충청북도忠淸北道
KR-44South Chungcheong Province충청남도忠淸南道
North Jeolla Province전라북도全羅北道
KR-46South Jeolla Province전라남도全羅南道
KR-47North Gyeongsang Province경상북도慶尙北道
KR-48South Gyeongsang Province경상남도慶尙南道
KR-49Jeju special self-governing province제주특별자치도濟州特別自治道

Municipal-level divisions

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

Si (city)

A si (시; 市, pronounced [ʃi]) 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)

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 a "gun" is less than a US "county".

Gu (district)

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

Eup (town)

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 countyor the secondary town or towns within a city's territoryare designated as eup. Towns are subdivided into villages (ri). In order to form an eup, the minimum population required is 20,000.

Myeon (township)

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)

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)

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


  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

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