Provinces of North Korea

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As of 2015-08-15, North Korea is changing its standard time to UTC+8:30.

Jose Gavinha sent a spreadsheet for North Korea. It contained 2008 census data from source [12], and 1993 census data from other sources. I used it to update both of those columns in the main table.

The mergers of Kaesŏng-si and Namp'o-si with their neighboring provinces are ahown in ISO 3166-2 Newsletter number II-1, dated 2010-02-03, and in the first appearance of the FIPS standard under its new name, "Geopolitical Entities and Codes", published in 2010-04.

ISO 3166-2 Newsletter II-1 also contains changes to the listing for North Korea. The update is rather confusing. Throughout the document, deletions from the previous standard are shown in blue strikeout type, and additions are shown in red. In most country listings, this is done in a straightforward way. For North Korea, however, the changes seem to scramble the entries. This is easier shown than described.

Subdivision Name 1: (McCune-Reischauer)Subdivision Name 2: (KPS)
KP-CHA 02Chagang-do P’yŏngan-namdoPhyeongannamto
KP-HAB 03Hamgyŏng-bukto P’yŏngan-buktoPhyeonganpukto
KP-HAN 04Hamgyŏng-namdo Chagang-doJakangto
KP-HWB 05Hwanghae-bukto Hwanghae-namdoHwanghainamto


This seems to say that the name of Chagang-do changed to P'yŏngan-namdo, while the name of Hamgyŏng-namdo changed to Chagang-do. If you look at the whole table, the provinces appear to be playing musical chairs. This is not plausible. Either the red names should be switched around relative to the blue names, or we should simply concede that the blue province on a given line is not necessarily the same as the red province on the same line. The question that remains, however, is this: do the red ISO codes belong to the same province as the blue ISO codes to their left, or as the red province name to their right? I'm assuming the latter—e.g., that the new code for Chagang-do is KP-04.

Newsletter II-1 also changes the status of P'yŏngyang-si to chikhalsi (capital city), and of Najin Sŏnbong-si to si (special city). Names of subdivisions are given using a new transliteration, identified as KPS 11080:2002.

There are differing accounts of the Change history since 2000. Source [1] was my basic reference. Wikipedia (source [10]) says that North Korea's provincial-level divisions are the nine provinces, two directly governed cities (chik'alshi), and three special administrative regions. The directly governed cities are P'yŏngyang chik'alshi (split in 1946 from P'yŏngan-namdo) and Najin-Sŏnbong chik'alshi (split in 1993 from Hamgyŏng-bukto). The special administrative regions are Shinŭiju T'eukpyŏl Haengjŏnggu (special administrative region, split in 2002 from P'yŏngan-bukto), Kaesŏng Kong-ŏp chigu (industrial region, split in 2002 from Kangwŏn-do - not the same as Kaesŏng chik'alshi), and Kŭmgang-san kwangwang chigu (tourist region, split in 2002 from Kangwŏn-do). The standards have not been listing special administrative regions at the province level, so I don't either.

Wikipedia (source [11]) gives this list of former directly governed cities. Ch'ŏngjin was a chik'alshi from 1960 to 1967 and from 1977 to 1985, but is now part of Hamgyŏng-bukto. Hamhŭng was a chik'alshi from 1960 to 1967, but is now part of Hamgyŏng-namdo. Kaesŏng was a designated region (chigu) from 1951 to 1955 and a chik'alshi from 1955 to 2003, but is now part of Hwanghae-bukto. Namp'o tŭkkŭpshi (special city) was a chik'alshi from 1980 to 2004, but is now part of P'yŏngan-namdo.

A 2003 map (source [2]) shows province-level borders around Ch'ongjin and Najin, formerly part of Hamgyong-bukto province. The area around Najin is labeled "Najin-Sŏnbong Free Trade Zone", and adjoins both the Chinese and Russian borders. The city of Najin itself is marked with the symbol for a "metropolitan, province capital". The 2002 CIA World Factbook lists "Najin Sŏnbong-si", but nothing like Ch'ongjin. The 2001 edition doesn't list either one.

Source [3] says, "In 1991, the D.P.R.K. announced the creation of a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in the northeast regions of Najin, Chongjin, and Sonbong." Source [8] says, "In November 2002 the presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly (SPA) passed laws formally establishing the Mt Geumgang tourist special economic zone (SEZ) and the Kaesong industrial SEZ. These SEZs add to the original Rajin-Sonbong region, established in 1992. ... Kaesong, also originally planned by the Hyundai group is located just north of the De-Militarised Zone (DMZ) which divides North and South Korea. ... A Special Administrative Region (SAR) was declared in September for the Chinese border region of Sinuiju." (Rajin is an alternate romanization of Najin.) The phrase "add to the original Rajin-Sonbong region" probably doesn't mean that the new SEZs became part of the Rajin-Sŏnbong SEZ, because the three are not in geographical proximity.

The splitting of Najin Sŏnbong-si special city from Hamgyong-bukto province is addressed by ISO 3166-2 Newsletter number I-4, dated 2002-12-10, and by Change Notice 8 to FIPS PUB 10-4, dated 2002-06-28.

Country overview: 

ISO codeKP
LanguageKorean (ko)
Time zone+8:30


In 1900, Korea had only recently come out from under Chinese hegemony, and was soon to submit to that of Japan. It became a Japanese protectorate in 1905-12, then a colony on 1910-08-22. At the end of World War II, the Soviet Union and the United States agreed to partition Korea at the 38th parallel, with the Soviet Army occupying the north and the U.S. the south. This arrangement was intended to last only until a democratic government could be set up for a united Korea. Instead, the communist north invaded the south in 1950, and the Korean War ensued. It was fought to a standoff. On 1953-07-27, an armistice was signed. North and South Korea were to be separated by a demilitarized zone about a kilometer wide, running near the 38th parallel across the peninsula.

Other names of country: 

  1. Danish: Nordkorea, Den Demokratiske Folkerepublik Korea (formal)
  2. Dutch: Noord-Korea, Democratische Volksrepubliek Korea (formal)
  3. English: Democratic People's Republic of Korea (formal)
  4. Finnish: Pohjois-Korea, Korean demokraattinen kansantasavalta (formal)
  5. French: Corée du Nord, République f populaire démocratique de Corée f (formal)
  6. German: Nordkorea n, Demokratische Volksrepublik f Korea n (formal)
  7. Icelandic: Norður-Kórea
  8. Italian: Corea f del Nord
  9. Korean: Chosun Minchu-chui Inmin Konghwa-guk (formal)
  10. Norwegian: Den demokratiske folkerepublikk Korea (formal) (Bokmål), Den demokratiske folkerepublikken Korea (formal) (Nynorsk), Nord-Korea
  11. Portuguese: Coreia do Norte, Coréia do Norte (Brazil), República f Popular Democrática da Coreia f (formal)
  12. Russian: КНДР (abbr), Корейская Народно-Демократическая Республика (formal)
  13. Spanish: Corea del Norte, República f Popular Democrática de Corea f (formal), República Democrática Popular de Corea (formal)
  14. Swedish: Nordkorea
  15. Turkish: Kuzey Kore
  16. Turkish: Kuzey Kore, Kore Demokratik Halk Cumhuriyeti (formal)

Origin of name: 

Korean koryo, dynastic name, meaning high serenity.

Primary subdivisions: 

North Korea is divided into nine do (provinces) and two si (special cities). The final syllable of the name tells which type each division is. After "buk" (north), the -do changes to -to by assimilation. (Nam = south.)

Province HASCISOex-ISOFIPSPop-2008Pop-1993Area(km.²)Area(mi.²)Capital
Chagang-do KP.CH04CHAKN011,299,8301,152,73316,0766,207Kanggye
Hamgyŏng-bukto KP.HG09HABKN172,130,4082,060,72512,1894,706Ch'ŏngjin
Hamgyŏng-namdo KP.HN08HANKN033,066,0132,732,23218,5587,165Hamhŭng
Hwanghae-bukto KP.WK06HWBKN072,113,6721,512,0609,4633,654Sariwŏn
Hwanghae-namdo KP.WN05HWNKN062,310,4852,010,9538,2943,202Haeju
Kangwŏn-do KP.KW07KANKN091,477,5821,304,48110,6004,100Wŏnsan
Najin Sŏnbong-siKP.NJ13NAJKN18196,954Najin
P'yŏngan-bukto KP.PB03PYBKN112,728,6622,404,49012,5754,855Sinŭiju
P'yŏngan-namdo KP.PM02PYNKN154,051,6962,866,10912,3304,761P'yŏngsŏng
P'yŏngyang-si KP.PY01PYOKN123,255,2882,741,2602,113816P'yŏngyang
Yanggang-do KP.YG10YANKN13719,269638,47413,8885,362Hyesan
11 divisions23,349,85920,522,351122,76247,399
  • Province: except for names ending in -si, which are special cities.
  • HASC: Hierarchical administrative subdivision codes.
  • ISO: Codes from ISO 3166-2.
  • ex-ISO: Codes from ISO 3166-2 prior to 2010.
  • FIPS: Codes from FIPS PUB 10-4.
  • Pop-2008: 2008-10-01 census. Source [12]
  • Pop-1993: 1993-12-31 census.
  • Area: Sources [4], [6]

Further subdivisions:

The provinces are further subdivided into 152 gun (counties).

Territorial extent: 

(The included entities ending in -do or -to are all islands.)

  1. Hamgyŏng-bukto included Najin Sŏnbong-si before it became a special city.
  2. Hamgyŏng-namdo includes Mayang-do.
  3. Hwanghae-bukto included Kaesŏng-si before it became a special city.
  4. Hwanghae-namdo includes Ch'o-do, Sŏk-to, Sunwi-do, and some other small islands along the Kyonggi-man.
  5. Kangwŏn-do includes Yŏ-do.
  6. P'yŏngan-bukto includes Sinmi-do, Sin-do, and Ka-do.
  7. P'yŏngan-namdo included Namp'o-si and P'yŏngyang-si before they became special cities.

The UN LOCODE page  for Korea, North lists locations in the country, some of them with their latitudes and longitudes, some with their ISO 3166-2 codes for their subdivisions. This information can be put together to approximate the territorial extent of subdivisions.

Origins of names: 

Source [7]

  1. Hamgyŏng: Korean for "perfect mirror" or "complete view"
  2. Hwanghae: named for the Hwanghae (Yellow Sea)
  3. P'yŏngan: Korean for "peaceful quiet"
  4. Yanggang: Korean for "both rivers", referring to the Amrok (= Yalu) and Tumen, which between them form almost all of the northern border of Korea

Change history: 

See South Korea for provinces of the Japanese colonial period.

  1. 1946: P'yŏngyang-si split from P'yŏngan-namdo.
  2. 1949-12: Chagang-do split from P'yŏngan-bukto.
  3. 1954-10: Yanggang-do formed from parts of Chagang-do and Hamgyŏng-namdo.
  4. 1955: Kaesŏng-si split from Hwanghae-bukto.
  5. 1960: Chongjin-si split from Hamgyŏng-bukto; Hamhŭng-si split from Hamgyŏng-namdo.
  6. 1967: Chongjin-si merged with Hamgyŏng-bukto; Hamhŭng-si merged with Hamgyŏng-namdo.
  7. 1977: Chongjin-si split from Hamgyŏng-bukto.
  8. ~1981: Hamhŭng-si split from Hamgyŏng-namdo for a short time, then merged with it again.
  9. 1980: Namp'o-si split from P'yŏngan-namdo (KN10 changed to KN15 to reflect the partition).
  10. 1985: Chongjin-si (KN02) merged with Hamgyŏng-bukto (KN04 changed to KN18 to reflect the acquisition).
  11. 1993: Najin Sŏnbong-si split from Hamgyong-bukto (former HASC code KP.HB, FIPS code KN16).
  12. 2000-08: Nasŏn designated as informal name for Najin Sŏnbong-si.
  13. 2002-09: Sinŭiju became a special administrative region (split from P'yŏngan-bukto?). The reason for the question mark is that it's not clear whether this status is coequal with provinces and special cities, or subordinate to a province.
  14. 2002-10: Kaesŏng became a special industrial zone (split from Kaesŏng-si?); Kŭmgang-san (Diamond Mountains) became a special tourism zone (split from Kangwŏn-do?).
  15. 2003: Kaesŏng-si (former HASC code KP.KS, ISO code KAE, FIPS code KN08, 1993 population 335,000, area 1,309 km.²) merged with Hwanghae-bukto (former HASC code KP.WB).
  16. 2004: Namp'o-si (former HASC code KP.NP, ISO code NAM, FIPS code KN14, 1993 population 731,000, area 753 km.²) merged with P'yŏngan-namdo (former HASC code KP.PN).
  17. 2010-02-03: ISO 3166-2 codes for provinces changed.

Other names of subdivisions: 

During the period of Japanese rule, Japanese names for the cities and provinces were in use. Some Korean phonemes are variously transliterated; for example, the Roman letters b and p are particularly likely to be interchanged. Therefore, -bukto is often spelled -pukto.

  1. Chagang-do: Jagang, Jakangto (variant)
  2. Hamgyŏng-bukto: Kankyo Hoku-do (Japanese); Hamkyeongpukto, North Hamgyong (variant)
  3. Hamgyŏng-namdo: Kankyo Nan-do (Japanese); Hamkyeongnamto, South Hamgyong (variant)
  4. Hwanghae-bukto: Hwanghaipukto, North Hwanghae, North Hwanghai (variant)
  5. Hwanghae-namdo: Hwanghainamto, South Hwanghae, South Hwanghai (variant)
  6. Kaesŏng-si: Kaesŏng-chigu (variant)
  7. Kangwŏn-do: Kogen-do (Japanese); Kangweonto, North Kangwon (variant)
  8. Najin Sŏnbong-si: Nasŏn (informal); Rajin, Raseon, Rasŏn (variant)
  9. P'yŏngan-bukto: Heian Hoku-do (Japanese); North Pyongan, Phyeonganpukto (variant)
  10. P'yŏngan-namdo: Heian Nan-do (Japanese); Phyeongannamto, South Pyongan (variant)
  11. P'yŏngyang-si: Pjöngjang (German); Phyeongyang, P'yŏngyang-tŭkpyŏlsi (variant)
  12. Sŏnbong: Unggi (obsolete)
  13. Yanggang-do: Ryanggang-do, Ryangkangto (variant)


  1. [1] "North Korea: The Land of the Morning Calm ", a report on North Korea from the Permanent Committee on Geographical Names (U.K.), 2003. See Section F, paragraphs 28-29 for history of subdivisions, 1993-2002.
  2. [2] National Geographic map of North and South Korea, 2003-07.
  3. [3] Denise Youngblood Coleman, ed.: "North Korea Country Review 2005", CountryWatch, Houston, TX. Retrieved from on 2003-07-01; this URL now has a more recent edition.
  4. [4] People's Korea website (, retrieved 2005-10-16, no longer active).
  5. [5] "Preliminary results of the 2008 Census of Population of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea conducted on 1-15 October 2008 ", a report of the U.N. Statistics Division, retrieved 2009-03-29.
  6. [6] "Ershiyi (21) Shiji Shijie Diming Lu", Beijing, 2001. Also has 1992 population estimates.
  7. [7] "Physical Basis for Korean Boundaries", by Shannon McCune, in Far Eastern Quarterly, Vol. V, No. 3, May, 1946 (reprinted in "Views of the Geography of Korea 1935-1960").
  8. [8] "North Korea Nuclear Crisis—Issues and Implications ", Current Issues Brief No. 18 2002–03, Department of the Parliamentary Library, Australia, 2003.
  9. [9] The People's Korea  website, which cites "DPRK, Central Bureau of Statistics (1993 Population Census)", retrieved 2009-09-06.
  10. [10] Administrative subdivisions of North Korea , retrieved from Wikipedia 2005-10-16.
  11. [11] Special cities of Korea , retrieved from Wikipedia 2005-10-16.
  12. [12] D P R Korea 2008 Population Census . Central Bureau of Statistics, Pyongyang, 2009 (retrieved 2013-11-20).
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