Special cities of Korea: Wikis


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In North and South Korea, Special Cities, Metropolitan Cities, and Directly Governed Cities are cities that have a status equivalent to that of Provinces (Do). Hence, like the provinces, such cities are under the direct administration of the central government.

As of 2004, there are two Directly Governed Cities (Chikhalsi; 직할시; 直轄市) and three other special provincial-level administrative regions in North Korea; and one Special City (Teukbyeolsi; 특별시; 特別市) and six Metropolitan Cities (Gwangyeoksi; 광역시; 廣域市) in South Korea. Before 1995, the five largest Gwangyeoksi in South Korea were classified as Chik'alshi (i.e. Chikhalsi in McCune-Reischauer romanization; now spelled Jikhalsi in the Revised Romanization of Korean).

In the following tables, "Year of Split" shows when the city split from the province it was located in.


North Korea

Directly Governed Cities and Special Administrative Regions of North Korea
Note: North Korea uses a variant of the McCune-Reischauer romanization.
Romanization Han'gŭl Hanja Year of Split Province split from
P'yŏngyang Chikhalsi* 평양 직할시 平壤直轄市 1946 S. P'yŏngan
Rasŏn Chikhalsi (Rajin-Sŏnbong Chikhalsi)* 라선직할시 (라진-선봉시) 羅先直轄市 (羅津-先鋒直轄市) 1993-2004, 2006 North Hamgyŏng
Sinŭiju T'ŭkpyŏl Haengjŏnggu
(Sinŭiju Special Administrative Region)
신의주 특별 행정구 新義州特別行政區 2002 N. P'yŏngan
Kaesŏng Kong'ŏp Chigu
(Kaesŏng Industrial Region)
개성 공업 지구 開城工業地區 2002 Formerly the North Korean section of Kyŏnggi Province
Kŭmgangsan Kwan'gwang Chigu
(Kŭmgang-san Tourist Region)
금강산 관광 지구 金剛山觀光地區 2002 Kangwon
  • Note:

The city is classified as a Directly Governed 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.

Former Special cities of North Korea

Romanization Han'gŭl Hanja Administered Years Province absorb into
Ch'ŏngjin - (formerly a Chikhalsi) 청진시 淸津市 1960-1967, 1977-1985 North Hamgyŏng
Hamhŭng - (formerly a Chikhalsi) 함흥시 咸興市 1960-1967 South Hamgyŏng
Kaesŏng - (formerly a Chikhalsi) 개성시 開城市 1951-1955 North Hwanghae
Namp'o - (formerly a Chikhalsi) 남포시 南浦市 1980-2004 South P'yŏng'an


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).

South Korea

Special Cities and Metropolitan Cities of South Korea
Note: South Korea uses the Revised Romanisation of Korean.
Romanization Hangul Hanja Year of Split Province split from
Seoul Teukbyeolsi 서울 특별시 See note below December, 1067 Yangju (then Namgyeong)
Busan Gwangyeoksi 부산 광역시 釜山廣域市 January 1, 1963 S. Gyeongsang
Daegu Gwangyeoksi 대구 광역시 大邱廣域市 July 1, 1981 N. Gyeongsang
Incheon Gwangyeoksi 인천 광역시 仁川廣域市 July 1, 1981 Gyeonggi
Gwangju Gwangyeoksi 광주 광역시 光州廣域市 November 1, 1986 S. Jeolla
Daejeon Gwangyeoksi 대전 광역시 大田廣域市 January 1, 1989 S. Chungcheong
Ulsan Gwangyeoksi 울산 광역시 蔚山廣域市 July 15, 1997 S. Gyeongsang



  • There is no hanja for "Seoul," but in Chinese, it is written by its Joseon Dynasty name Hanseong (漢城). The new Chinese name, 首爾/首尔, is a transcription based on the pronunciation of "Seoul". As a suffix, the character gyeong (京) is used, which means "capital".
  • Seoul was designated a "Special Free City" (Teukbyeol Jayusi; 특별 자유시; 特別自由市) separate from Gyeonggi Province on August 15, 1946; it became a "Special City" on August 15, 1949.

See also

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