Provinces of South Korea

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"Geopolitical Entities, Names, and Codes, Edition 2" (GENC), a U.S. standard that's supposed to correspond to ISO 3166-2, was issued on 2014-03-31. It gives Sejong the code KR-50. Its codes for all the other provinces and cities match the ISO codes. Subsequently, on 2014-10-31, ISO assigned that same code to Sejong.

Thanks to Sorin Cosoveanu, I located census data for 2000 and 2010. I had formerly listed 2000 census data rounded to the nearest 1000; source [10] gave precise figures. Its figures for Gyeongsangnam-do and total Korea were about 70,000 less than I had previously shown, but the rest were all consistent.

Update 9 to Geopolitical Entities and Codes (formerly FIPS 10-4) is dated 2012-09-01. It includes a new code for Sejong.

On 2004-08-11, South Korea announced plans to move its capital from Seoul by 2020. South Korea's Constitutional Court rejected the move, on the ground that the constitution names Seoul specifically as capital. However, the construction of a new city and the move of numerous administrative offices to that city have gone ahead. Now the new city, Sejong, has been inaugurated as a special autonomous city (teukbyeol-jachisi). Thanks to Sorin Cosoveanu for bringing that to my attention.

Update 7 to Geopolitical Entities and Codes, the successor to FIPS standard 10-4, was issued with the date 2012-02-01. It changes some spellings to conform to new Hangeul, including the names of the types of subdivision. Going still further, it simplifies the names of some provinces. For example, Chungch'ŏng-bukto becomes Chungbuk. These simplified names are shown below, in the Other names of subdivisions section, with the tag "reduced".

The National Geographic Magazine (source [5]) reports that South Korea adopted a new romanization system on 2000-07-04, intended to replace the McCune-Reischauer system. The new system was developed by the National Academy of the Korean Language (NAKL). It seems to be called the "new Hangeul system" in discussions on the Internet. One of its objectives is to eliminate the use of apostrophes and breves that might otherwise get lost, especially in computer implementations. I've added the new romanizations of names, as shown on the National Geographic map.

International standard ISO 3166-2 was published on 1998-12-15. It superseded ISO/DIS 3166-2 (draft international standard). For South Korea, the draft standard showed fifteen divisions. The final standard shows the same fifteen divisions plus one more: Ulsan city. Also, many of the ISO codes were changed from the draft. The FIPS standard recognized the creation of Ulsan city in Change Notice 7, dated 2002-01-10, which lists new codes resulting from the splitting of Ulsan from Gyeongsangnam-do.

Country overview: 

Short nameKOREA, SOUTH
ISO codeKR
LanguageKorean (ko)
Time zone+9


See North Korea for the country overview of the Korean peninsula during the 20th century.

Other names of country: 

  1. Danish: Sydkorea, Republikken Korea (formal)
  2. Dutch: Zuid-Korea, Republiek Korea (formal)
  3. English: Republic of Korea (formal)
  4. Finnish: Etelä-Korea, Korean tasavalta (formal)
  5. French: Corée du Sud, République f de Corée f (formal)
  6. German: Südkorea n, Republik f Korea n (formal)
  7. Icelandic: Suður-Kórea
  8. Italian: Corea f del Sud
  9. Korean: Daehan Min-kuk (formal)
  10. Norwegian: Sør-Korea, Republikken Korea (formal)
  11. Portuguese: Coreia do Sul, Coréia do Sul (Brazil), República f da Coreia f (formal)
  12. Russian: Республика Корея (formal)
  13. Spanish: Corea del Sur, República f de Corea f (formal)
  14. Swedish: Sydkorea
  15. Turkish: Güney Kore, Kore Cumhuriyeti (formal)

Origin of name: 

Korean koryo, dynastic name, meaning high serenity.

Primary subdivisions: 

South Korea is divided into eight do (provinces), six gwangyeoksi (metropolitan cities), one teukbyeol jachido (special autonomous province), one teukbyeol jachisi (special autonomous city), and one teukbyeolsi (capital metropolitan city). (Buk = north, nam = south.)

New HangeulMcCune-RTypHASCISONSOFIPSPop-2010Pop-2000Area(km.²)Area(mi.²)NewOldPc
Sejong scKR.SJ50 KS22         
17 divisions47,990,76146,136,10199,39238,375
  • New Hangeul: Division name using new Hangeul romanization. National Geographic omits the generic from names of
    metropolitan cities.
  • McCune-R: Division name using McCune-Reischauer romanization.
  • Typ: cc = capital metropolitan city, mc = metropolitan city, pr = province, sc = special autonomous
    city, sp = special autonomous province.
  • HASC: Hierarchical administrative subdivision codes.
  • ISO: Province codes from ISO 3166-2. For full identification in a global context, prefix "KR-" to the code (ex: KR-49
    represents Jeju-do).
  • NSO: Province codes used by the Korean National Statistical Office for KOSIS (Korean Statistical Information System).
  • FIPS: Codes from FIPS PUB 10-4, a U.S. government standard.
  • Pop-2010: 2010-11-01 census.
  • Pop-2000: 2000-11-01 census.
  • Area: According to the Statesman's Yearbook 2006.
  • New: Capital name using new Hangeul romanization.
  • Old: Capital name using McCune-Reischauer romanization.
  • Pc: Korea uses six-digit postal codes, with a hyphen separating the first three digits from the last three. The first
    digit is determined by the province or city, as shown.

Further subdivisions:

The provinces are subdivided into over 200 gun (counties) and shi (cities).

According to source [6], originally (1896?) Korea was divided into 360 ju (districts). After Japan's 1910 annexation of Korea, many of the secondary and tertiary administrative divisions were merged or altered. In 1937 the number of districts was 220. Jeju and Ulleung islands were special administrative districts, and counted as two districts in the total.

The Korean National Statistical Office has defined a hierarchical set of codes (KOSIS codes, source [4]) for the administrative divisions of South Korea. The primary divisions, as shown in the table above, are represented by two-digit codes. On the secondary level, metropolitan cities are subdivided into districts; provinces are subdivided into cities, counties, etc. Secondary subdivisions are all represented by four-digit codes, in which the first two digits indicate the primary division. Some of the secondary-level cities are divided into units on the tertiary level called districts. Tertiary subdivisions are denoted by five-digit codes, in which the first four digits indicate the city.

Territorial extent: 

  1. Busan includes the islands of Yong-do and Ulsuk-to.
  2. Chungcheongnam-do included Daejeon before it became a special city. It includes the islands of Wonsan-do, Sapshi-do, Taenanji-do, and many islets; the westernmost is Sogyŏngnyŏlbi-do.
  3. Gangwon-do includes the fairly remote island of Ulleung-do, long ago called Dagelet Island.
  4. Gyeonggi-do included Incheon and Soul (Seoul), now an enclave, before they became special cities. It includes the Tŏkchŏk-kundo island group, some of whose largest islands are Tŏkchŏk-to, Mungap-to, Soya-do, Chawol-to, and Paega-do; Paengnyŏng-do, Taech'ŏng-do, and Soch'ŏng-do, known long ago as the Sir James Hall Group; the Yŏnp'yŏng-yŏlto group; and many other islands, such as Kanghwa-do, Kyodong-do, Sŏngmo-do, Taebu-do, Yŏnghŭng-do, Polŭm-do, Chumun-do, Changbong-do, and Shin-do.
  5. Gyeongsangbuk-do included Daegu, now an enclave, before it became a special city.
  6. Gyeongsangnam-do included Busan before it became a special city. It includes the large coastal islands of Kŏje-do, Namhae-do (the westernmost), Ch'angsŏn-do, and Mirŭk-to, and many smaller ones.
  7. Incheon includes the islands of Yŏngjong-do, Yongyu-do, Muŭi-do, and Sammok-to.
  8. Jeju-do is an island, formerly known to westerners as Quelpart, off the southern tip of the Korean Peninsula. It also includes the Ch'uja-kundo island group, whose largest island is Hach'uja-do, and the islands of Kap'a-do and Mara-do.
  9. Jeollabuk-do includes the islands of Wi-do, Ŏch'ŏng-do, Sŏnyu-do, and many more.
  10. Jeollanam-do included Gwangju, now an enclave, before it became a special city. It includes the Hŭksan-chedo island group, of which Taehŭksan-do, Sohŭksan-do, and Hongdo are the largest; and an archipelago of coastal islands. The largest is Chin-do, and there are many others of considerable size. They extend as far north as Anma-do, and as far east as the Kŭmo-yŏlto group, containing Kŭmo-do.

The UN LOCODE page  for Korea, South 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: 

Most of these derivations come from source [6].

  1. Chungcheong: = serene loyalty
  2. Gangwon: = river meadow
  3. Gyeonggi: = capital, or home
  4. Gyeongsang: = respectful congratulation
  5. Incheon: Korean in: virtue, cheon: river
  6. Jeju-do: Korean je: end, ju: province, do: island
  7. Jeolla: = completed network
  8. Seoul: = capital, prince's residence
  9. Sejong: named for Sejong the Great (1397-1450), credited with the invention of the hangul alphabet

Change history: 

  1. 1392: Start of Yi dynasty. Capital of Korea moved from Kaesong to Seoul. Country divided into eight provinces: Cholla, Chungchong, Hamgyong, Hwanghae, Kangwon, Kyonggi, Kyongsang, and Pyongang. Koreans subsequently referred to their country as "paldo kangsan," the land of eight provinces.
  2. 1895-06-20: Korea reorganized into 23 administration districts.
  3. 1896-08-04: The previous year's reorganization was revoked. Cholla, Chungchong, Hamgyong, Kyongsang, and Pyongang were each divided into two provinces, called north and south. (In fact, however, North Chungchong is predominantly east of South Chungchong.) The provinces at this time were:
ProvinceJapanese namePopulationArea(km.²)Now inCapital
North ChollaZenra Hoku-do1,535,8278,550SouthJeonju (Zenshu)
South ChollaZenra Nan-do2,409,60213,882SouthGwangju (Koshu)
North ChungchongChusei Hoku-do913,4077,415SouthCheongju (Seishu)
South ChungchongChusei Nan-do1,469,6408,104SouthDaejeon (Taiden)
North HamgyongKankyo Hoku-do792,29320,342NorthNanam (Ranan)
South HamgyongKankyo Nan-do1,603,33531,971NorthHamhung (Kanko)
HwanghaeKokai-do1,619,71816,739NorthHaeju (Kaishu)
KangwonKogen-do1,529,35726,257bothChuncheon (Shunsen)
KyonggiKeiki-do2,330,57012,818SouthSeoul (Keijo)
North KyongsangKeisho Hoku-do2,469,10318,985SouthDaegu (Taikyu)
South KyongsangKeisho Nan-do2,191,51212,302SouthBusan (Fusan)
North PyongangHeian Hoku-do1,617,78528,433NorthSinuiju (Shingishu)
South PyongangHeian Nan-do1,409,03114,934NorthP'yongyang (Heijo)
13 provinces21,891,180220,732
  • Population: 1935 census
  • Now in: Country (North or South Korea) containing the successor to this province
  • Capital: Korean names of capitals (followed by Japanese names)
  1. 1946-08-01: Cheju-do province split from Chŏlla-namdo.
  2. 1946-08-15: Seoul "special free city" split from Kyŏnggi-do province.
  3. 1949-08-15: Status of Seoul changed from special free city to special city (t'ŭkpyŏlsi).
  4. 1963-01-01: Pusan direct control city split from Kyŏngsang-namdo province. The divisions at the time of the 1975 census were:
11 divisions34,678,97224,994,11820,188,64198,431
  • FIPS: Codes from FIPS PUB 10-4.
  • Pop-75: 1975-10-01 census (source [8].)
  • Pop-60: 1960-12-01 census (source [9].)
  • Pop-49: 1949-05-01 census (source [7].)
  1. 1981: Taegu direct control city split from Kyŏngsang-bukto province (FIPS code KS09 before change); Inch'ŏn direct control city split from Kyŏnggi-do province (KS07).
  2. 1986: Kwangju direct control city split from Chŏlla-namdo province (KS02).
  3. 1989: Taejŏn direct control city split from Ch'ungch'ŏng-namdo province (KS04). At this time, the primary subdivisions of South Korea were as shown in this table.
15 divisions43,410,89999,30038,339
  1. ~1994: Capital of Kyŏngsang-namdo moved from Ch'angwŏn to Pusan.
  2. 1995-01-01: status of all five jikhalsi (direct control cities) changed to gwangyŏksi (metropolitan cities).
  3. 1997-07-15: Ulsan metropolitan city split from Kyŏngsang-namdo province.
  4. 1998-12-15: Final version of ISO 3166-2 changed most provincial codes from what they had been in the draft standard. The source for the old codes was Korean Customs. The source for the revised codes was Korean Standard KS C 5618 -1995: Public zone code.
  5. 2000-07-04: New Hangeul romanization system became official. All province names changed.
  6. 2005: Capital of Jeollanam-do moved from Gwangju to Namak.
  7. 2006-07-01: Status of Jeju changed from province to special autonomous province.
  8. 2012-07-01: Sejong special autonomous city formed from parts of Chungcheongbuk-do (former HASC code KR.GB) and Chungcheongnam-do (KR.GN) provinces, mostly the latter. It covers 465.2 km.². Specifically, it incorporates parts of Yeongi county and Gongju city in Chungcheongnam-do, and part of Cheongan county in Chungcheongbuk-do.

Other names of subdivisions: 

These names were all first written in Korean characters, of course. On this page, they appear transliterated into the Roman alphabet. There are several systems of romanization in use, which accounts for much of the variation in spelling. Currently the new Hangeul system is official. The McCune-Reischauer system was preferred until recently.

In Korean, the same letter may be pronounced differently, depending on the letters in juxtaposition with it. The McCune-Reischauer system takes this into account. Other romanizations may replace p with b, ch with j, k with g, and so on.

The names of these divisions usually have generics suffixed to them. The generics are "do" for province, "gwangyeoksi" ("gwangyŏksi") for metropolitan city, and "teugbyeolsi" ("t'ŭkpyŏlsi") for capital metropolitan city. They may be written as separate words, hyphenated, or joined with the specific name. When "do" is joined to a name ending with k, it changes to "to" in the McCune-Reischauer system. Some alternate transliterations of "gwangyeoksi" are "gwang'yeogsi" and "kwangyokshi".

Korea became a Japanese protectorate in 1905-12, and then a colony on 1910-08-22. It regained its independence with the surrender of Japan on 1945-09-02. During the period of Japanese domination, Japanese names for the cities and provinces (the "Japanese" tags below) were in use.

Here are some recognized alternate names for Korean provinces and metropolitan cities. The "variant" tags are usually different romanizations.

  1. Busan: Busan Gwang'yeogsi, Pusan-gwangyŏksi (variant); Fusan (Japanese)
  2. Chungcheongbuk-do: Chungbuk (reduced); Chungcheongbugdo, Ch'ungch'ŏng-bukto (variant); Chusei Hoku-do (Japanese); North Chungchong (English)
  3. Chungcheongnam-do: Chungnam (reduced); Ch'ungch'ŏng-namdo (variant); Chusei Nan-do (Japanese); South Chungchong (English)
  4. Daegu: Daegu Gwang'yeogsi, Taegu-gwangyŏksi (variant); Taikyu (Japanese)
  5. Daejeon: Daejeon Gwang'yeogsi, Taejŏn-gwangyŏksi (variant); Taiden (Japanese)
  6. Gangwon-do: Gang'weondo, Kangwŏn-do (variant); Kogen-do (Japanese); South Kangwon (to distinguish it from the part of Kangwon province in North Korea)
  7. Gwangju: Kwangju-gwangyŏksi (variant)
  8. Gyeonggi-do: Kyŏnggi-do (variant); Keiki-do (Japanese); Kyunggi (variant)
  9. Gyeongsangbuk-do: Gyeongbuk (reduced); Gyeongsangbugdo, Kyŏngsang-bukto (variant); Keisho Hoku-do (Japanese); North Kyŏngsang (English)
  10. Gyeongsangnam-do: Gyeongnam (reduced); Kyŏngsang-namdo (variant); Keisho Nan-do (Japanese); South Kyŏngsang (English)
  11. Incheon: Inch'ŏn-gwangyŏksi (variant); Jinsen (Japanese)
  12. Jeju-do: Cheju-do, Jeju (variant); Quelpart (name used by Westerners for the island until ~1930); Saishu-to (Japanese)
  13. Jeollabuk-do: Chŏlla-bukto, Jeonrabugdo (variant); Jeonbuk (reduced); North Cholla (English); Zenra Hoku-do (Japanese)
  14. Jeollanam-do: Chŏlla-namdo, Jeonranamdo (variant); Jeonnam (reduced); South Cholla (English); Zenra Nan-do (Japanese)
  15. Seoul: Keijo (Japanese); Séoul (French); Seul (Italian, Portuguese); Seúl (Spanish); Söul (variant-German, Norwegian); Soul-t'ŭkpyŏlsi (variant)


  1. [1] Korea Annual 1972. Hapdong News Agency, Seoul, 1972. Also 1966 edition.
  2. [2] Korea Statistical Yearbook 1992. The Korean Statistical Association, 1992.
  3. [3] Korea Statistical Handbook 1992. National Statistical Office, Republic of Korea, 1992. Also 1988 edition.
  4. [4] Korean National Statistical Office, (dead link, retrieved 1999-09-04), and
  5. [5] The Forgotten War: Three Long Years in Korea Map Supplement. National Geographic Magazine, July 2003.
  6. [6] "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").
  7. [7] Demographic Yearbook , 7th Ed. Statistical Office of the United Nations, New York, 1955 (retrieved 2011-08-20).
  8. [8] 1979 Demographic Yearbook , 31st Ed. Statistical Office, United Nations, New York, 1980 (retrieved 2011-12-28).
  9. [9] The Encyclopædia Britannica World Atlas, 1964 edition.
  10. [10] Statistical Database . KOSIS (Korean Statistical Information Service), Statistics Korea, 2010 (retrieved 2013-11-22).
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