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Provinces of Korea

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Provinces of Korea

This article describes the historical development of Korea's provinces (Do ; hangul: 도; hanja: ).

Provinces (Do) have been the primary administrative division of Korea since the mid Goryeo dynasty in the early 11th century, and were preceded by provincial-level divisions (Ju and Mok) dating back to Unified Silla, in the late 7th century.

Historical summary

During the Unified Silla Period (AD 668–935), Korea was divided into nine Ju (주; ), an old word for "province" that was used to name both the kingdom's provinces and its provincial capitals.

After Goryeo defeated Silla and Later Baekje in 935 and 936 respectively, the new kingdom "was divided into one royal district (Ginae; 기내; 畿內) and twelve administrative districts (Mok; 목; )" (Nahm 1988), which were soon redivided into ten provinces (Do). In 1009 the country was again redivided, this time into one royal district, five provinces (Do) and two frontier districts (Gye; 계; ?).

After the Joseon Dynasty's rise to power and the formation of Joseon in 1392, the country was redivided into eight new provinces (Do) in 1413. The provincial boundaries closely reflected major regional and dialect boundaries, and are still often referred to in Korean today simply as the Eight Provinces (Paldo). In 1895, as part of the Gabo Reform, the country was redivided into 23 districts (Bu; 부; ), which were replaced a year later by thirteen new provinces.

The thirteen provinces of 1896 included three of the original eight provinces, with the five remaining original provinces divided into north and south halves (Bukdo (북도; 北道) and Namdo (남도; 南道) respectively). The thirteen provinces remained unchanged throughout the Colonial Period.

With the liberation of Korea in 1945, the Korean peninsula was divided into Northern Korea and Southern Korea under trusteeship from Soviet Union and America, with the dividing line established along the 38th parallel. (See Division of Korea for more details.) As a result, three provinces—Hwanghae, Gyeonggi, and Gangwon (Kangwŏn)—were divided into North Korea and South Korea today.

The special cities of Seoul and P'yŏngyang were formed in 1946. Between 1946 and 1954, five new provinces were created: Jeju in South Korea, and North and South Hwanghae, Chagang, and Ryanggang in North Korea.

Since 1954, provincial boundaries in both the North and South have remained unchanged. New cities and special administrative regions have been created, however: see Special cities of Korea for their history. For a comprehensive description of Korea's provinces and special cities today, please see Administrative divisions of North Korea and Administrative divisions of South Korea.

Provinces of Unified Silla

In 660, the southeastern kingdom of Silla conquered Baekje in the Southwest, and in 668, Silla conquered Goguryeo in the north with the help of China's Tang Dynasty (see also Three Kingdoms of Korea). For the first time, most of the Korean peninsula was ruled by a single power. Silla's northern boundary ran through the middle of southern Goguryeo, from the Taedong River (which flows through P'yŏngyang) in the west to Wŏnsan in modern-day Kangwon Province in the east. In 721, Silla solidifed its northern boundary with Balhae (which replaced Goguryeo in the north) by building a wall between P'yŏngyang and Wŏnsan.

The country's capital was Geumseong (modern-day Gyeongju), and sub-capitals were located at Geumgwan-gyeong (Gimhae), Namwon-gyeong, Seowon-gyeong (Cheongju), Jungwon-gyeong (Chungju), and Bugwon-gyeong (Wonju).

The country was divided into nine provinces (Ju): three in the pre-660 territory of Silla, and three each in the former kingdoms of Baekje and Goguryeo.

The table below lists the three preceding kingdoms, each province's name in the Roman alphabet, hangul, and hanja, as well as the provincial capital, and the equivalent modern-day province.

Former kingdom Province Hangul Hanja Capital Modern equivalent
Silla Yangju 양주 良州 Yangju Eastern Gyeongsang
Gangju 강주 康州 Gangju Western South Gyeongsang
Sangju 상주 尙州 Sangju Western North Gyeongsang
Baekje Muju 무주 武州 Muju South Jeolla
Jeonju 전주 全州 Jeonju North Jeolla
Ungju 웅주 熊州 Gongju South Chungcheong
Goguryeo Hanju 한주 漢州 Hanju (Seoul) North Chungcheong, Gyeonggi, Hwanghae
Sakju 삭주 朔州 Sakju Western Gangwon
Myeongju 명주 溟州 Myeongju Eastern Gangwon

Provinces of Goryeo

In 892, Gyeon Hwon founded the kingdom of Later Baekje in southwestern Silla, and in 918, Wanggeon (King Taejo) established the kingdom of Goryeo in the northwest, with its capital at Songak (modern-day Kaesŏng). In 935, Goryeo conquered the remnants of Silla, and in 936, it conquered Later Baekje. Songak was greatly expanded and renamed Gaegyeong. Taejo expanded the country's territory by conquering part of the land formerly belonging to Goguryeo, in the northwest of the Korean peninsula, as far north as the Amnok River (Yalu River). A wall was constructed from the Amnok River in the northwest to the Sea of Japan (East Sea of Korea) in the southeast, on the boundary between Goryeo and the northeastern Jurched territory.

The country had one capital (Gaegyeong) and three sub-capitals: Donggyeong (modern-day Gyeongju and the former capital of Silla), Namgyeong (modern-day Seoul), and Seogyeong (modern-day P'yŏngyang).

Originally, the country had one royal district (Ginae; 기내; 畿內) around Gaegyeong and twelve administrative districts (Mok; 목; ): (Note that Gwangju-mok is modern-day Gwangju-si in Gyeonggi Province, not the larger Gwangju Metropolitan City.)

The twelve districts were soon redivided into ten provinces (Do; 도; ). Gwannae-do included the administrative districts of Yangju, Hwangju, Gwangju, and Haeju; Jungwon-do included Chungju and Cheongju; Hanam-do replaced Gongju; Gangnam-do replaced Jeonju; Yeongnam-do replaced Sangju; Sannam-do replaced Jinju; and Haeyang-do replaced Naju and Seungju; the three other new provinces were Yeongdong-do, Panbang-do, and Paeseo-do.

Finally, in 1009, the ten provinces were again redivided, this time into five provinces (Do) and two frontier districts (Gye; 계; ?).

The table below lists the provinces of Silla, the administrative districts of Goryeo that replaced them, then the pre- and post-1009 provinces, as well as their modern equivalents. ^

Province of Silla Administrative district Pre-1009 province Post-1009 province Modern equivalent
Hanju Gyeonggi (京畿) Gyeonggi Gyeonggi Kaesŏng
Yangju-mok (揚州牧) Gwannae-do Seohae-do Hwanghae
Hwangju-mok (黃州牧) North Hwanghae
Haeju-mok (海州牧) South Hwanghae
Gwangju-mok (廣州牧) Yanggwang-do Gyeonggi
Chungju-mok (忠州牧) Jungwon-do North Chungcheong
Ungju Cheongju-mok
Gongju-mok Hanam-do South Chungcheong
Jeonju Jeonju-mok (全州牧) Gangnam-do Jeolla-do North Jeolla
Muju Naju-mok Haeyang-do South Jeolla
Sangju Sangju-mok Yeongnam-do Gyeongsang-do North Gyeongsang
Gangju Jinju-mok Sannam-do Western South Gyeongsang
Yangju Yeongdong-do Eastern South Gyeongsang
Sakju Sakbang-do Gyoju-do Gangwon
Myeongju Donggye
Paeseo-do Bukgye Pyeongan

Provinces of Joseon

In 1413, Korea (at that time called Joseon) was divided into eight provinces: Chungcheong, Gangwon, Gyeonggi, Gyeongsang, Jeolla, Hamgyŏng (originally called Yeonggil), Hwanghae (originally called P'unghae), and P'yŏngan.

For detailed information on the eight provinces of Joseon—an important subject for understanding Korea's modern geography—please see Eight Provinces (Korea), as well as the articles on the individual provinces, as listed above.

RR Romaja M–R Romaja Hangul Hanja Name origin Capital Region Korean dialect Post-1896 Provinces
Chungcheong Ch'ungch'ŏng 충청도 忠淸道 Chungju (충주 忠州),
Cheongju (청주 淸州)
Gongju Hoseo Chungcheong dialect Chungcheongbuk
Gangwon Kangwŏn 강원도 江原道 Gangneung (강릉 江陵),
Wonju (원주 原州)
Wonju Gwandong
(Yeongseo, Yeongdong (1))
Gangwon dialect Gangwon
Gyeonggi Kyŏnggi 경기도 京畿道 (See note) Hanseong
Gijeon (2) Seoul dialect Gyeonggi
Gyeongsang Kyŏngsang 경상도 慶尙道 Gyeongju (경주 慶州),
Sangju (상주 尙州)
Daegu Yeongnam Gyeongsang dialect Gyeongsangbuk
Hamgyeong Hamgyŏng 함경도 咸鏡道 Hamhung (함흥 咸興),
Kyongsong (경성 鏡城)
Hamhung Kwanbuk, Kwannam (3) Hamgyŏng dialect Hamgyŏngbuk
Hwanghae Hwanghae 황해도 黃海道 Hwangju (황주 黃州),
Haeju (해주 海州)
Haeju Haeso Hwanghae dialect Hwanghae (4)
Jeolla Chŏlla 전라도 全羅道 Jeonju (전주 全州),
Naju (나주 羅州)(5)
Jeonju Honam Jeolla dialect;
Jeju language (6)
Pyeongan P'yŏngan 평안도 平安道 Pyongyang (평양 平壤),
Anju (안주 安州)
Pyongyang Kwanso Pyongan dialect P'yŏnganbuk
The Eight Provinces (Paldo)
1. "Gwandong" is the name for the region as a whole, with "Yeongseo" denoting the western half of the province and "Yeongdong" the eastern half. "Yeongdong" is used more often than either of the other two terms, however, especially in reference to railway and road arteries that cross through Gangwon, connecting the Seoul and Yeongdong regions.
2. The province's name literally means "area within a 500-li (200-km) radius" (gi; ) of the "capital" (Gyeong; ), referring to the royal capital Hanseong (modern-day Seoul). The regional name "Gijeon" is obsolete. The 20th-century term "Sudogwon" ("Capital Region") is used today to denote the Seoul-Incheon conurbation and that part of Gyeonggi Province that forms part of the same built-up, urban area.
3. "Gwanbuk" was used to designate either the province as whole, or only the northern part thereof. In the latter case, "Gwannam" was then used to denote the southern part of the province.
4. The modern-day division of the province into North and South did not occur until 1954.
5. The initial "n" in "Naju" is pronounced as "l" (lower-case "L") when it comes after another consonant; the final "n" in the "Jeon" of "Jeonju" is then assimilated to an "l" sound.
6. The distinctive Jeju dialect is used on Jeju Island, which became a separate province in 1946.

Districts of Late Joseon

23 Districts (Isipsambu)

In 1895, Korea was redivided into 23 districts (Bu; 부; ), each named for the city or county that was its capital. The districts were short-lived, however, as the following year, the provincial system was restored (see below).

Each district name in the following list links to the article on the province from which the district was formed, and where more detailed information on the district is provided:

Provinces of the Korean Empire

13 Provinces (Sipsamdo)

In 1896, the former eight provinces were restored, with five of them (Chungcheong, Gyeongsang, Jeolla, Hamgyŏng, and P'yŏngan) being divided into North and South Provinces (Bukdo (북도; ) and Namdo (남도; ) respectively). The resulting system of thirteen provinces lasted until the Division of Korea in 1945.

The thirteen provinces were: North and South Chungcheong, Gangwon, Gyeonggi, North and South Gyeongsang, North and South Hamgyŏng, Hwanghae, North and South Jeolla, and North and South P'yŏngan.

Provinces under Japanese Colonial rule

Under Japanese rule, Korean provinces remained much the same, only taking on the Japanese reading of the hanja. The Provinces of Chōsen were:

Japanese name Kana Hanja/Kanji Korean name Hangul
Chūsei-hokudō ちゅうせいほくどう 忠清北道 Chungcheong-bukdo 충청북도
Keishō-hokudō けいしょうほくどう 慶尚北道 Gyeongsang-bukdo 경상북도
Chūsei-nandō ちゅうせいなんどう 忠淸南道 Chungcheong-namdo 충청남도
Keishō-nandō けいしょうなんどう 慶尚南道 Gyeongsang-namdo 경상남도
Heian-hokudō へいあんほくどう 平安北道 Pyeongan-bukdo 평안북도
Kōgendō こうげんどう 江原道 Gangwondo 강원도
Heian-nandō へいあんなんどう 平安南道 Pyeongan-namdo 평안남도
Kōkaidō こうかいどう 黃海道 Hwanghaedo 황해도
Kankyō-hokudo かんきょうほくどう 咸鏡北道 Hamgyeong-bukdo 함경북도
Zenra-hokudō ぜんらほくどう 全羅北道 Jeolla-bukdo 전라북도
Kankyō-nandō かんきょうなんどう 咸鏡南道 Hamgyeong-namdo 함경남도
Zenra-nandō ぜんらなんどう 全羅南道 Jeolla-namdo 전라남도
Keikidō けいきどう 京畿道 Gyeonggido 경기도

Provincial divisions since the division of Korea

At the end of World War II in 1945, Korea was divided into Northern Korea and Southern Korea under trusteeship of the Soviet Union and the United States. (See Division of Korea for more information.) The peninsula was divided at the 38th parallel in 1945. In 1948, the two zones became the independent countries of North Korea and South Korea.

Three provinces—Hwanghae, Gyeonggi, and Gangwon—were divided by the 38th parallel.

Also in 1946, the cities of Seoul in the south and Pyongyang in the north separated from Gyeonggi and South Pyongan Provinces respectively to become Special Cities. Both North Korea and South Korea upgraded cities to a level equals to a province, these cities are sometimes counted along with provinces. See Special cities of North Korea and Special cities of South Korea.

Finally, the new provinces of Jeju Province (in the south, in 1946) and Chagang Province (in the north, 1949) were formed, from parts of South Jeolla and North Pyongan respectively. In 1954, Ryanggang Province split from South Hamgyong.

The following table lists the present provincial divisions in the Korean Peninsula.
RR Romaja M–R Romaja Hangul/Chosongul Hanja ISO Type Area Capital Region Country
Busan Pusan KR-26 City 767 Yeonje Yeongnam South Korea
ChungcheongbukNorth Chungcheong ChungchongbukNorth Ch'ungch'ŏng KR-43 Province 7,436 Cheongju Hoseo South Korea
ChungcheongnamSouth Chungcheong ChungchongnamSouth Ch'ungch'ŏng KR-44 Province 8,352 Hongseong Hoseo South Korea
Daegu Taegu KR-27 City 884 Jung Yeongnam South Korea
Daejeon Taejŏn KR-30 City 539 Seo Hoseo South Korea
Gangwon Kangwŏn KR-42 Province 16,894 Chuncheon Gwandong South Korea
Gangwon Kangwŏn KP-07 Province 11,091 Wonsan Gwandong North Korea
Gwangju Kwangju KR-29 City 501 Seo Honam South Korea
Gyeonggi Kyŏnggi KR-41 Province 10,131 Suwon Sudogwon South Korea
GyeongsangbukNorth Gyeongsang KyongsangbukNorth Kyŏngsang KR-47 Province 19,440[2] Daegu Yeongnam South Korea
GyeongsangnamSouth Gyeongsang KyongsangnamSouth Kyŏngsang KR-48 Province 11,859 Changwon Yeongnam South Korea
HamgyongbukNorth Hamgyeong HamgyongbukNorth Hamgyŏng KP-09 Province 15,980 Chongjin Kwanbuk North Korea
HamgyongnamSouth Hamgyeong HamgyongnamSouth Hamgyŏng KP-08 Province 18,534 Hamhung Kwannam North Korea
HwanghaebukNorth Hwanghae HwanghaebukNorth Hwanghae KP-06 Province 8,154 Sariwon Haeso North Korea
HwanghaenamSouth Hwanghae HwanghaenamSouth Hwanghae KP-05 Province 8,450 Haeju Haeso North Korea
Incheon Inch'ŏn KR-28 City 1,029 Namdong Sudogwon South Korea
Jagang Chagang KP-04 Province 16,765 Kanggye Kwanso North Korea
Jeju Cheju KR-49 Province 1,846 Jeju City Jejudo South Korea
JeollabukNorth Jeolla ChollabukNorth Chŏlla KR-45 Province 8,043 Jeonju Honam South Korea
JeollanamSouth Jeolla ChollanamSouth Chŏlla KR-46 Province 11,858 Muan Honam South Korea
Nampo Namp'o KP-?? City 829 Kangsŏ Kwanso North Korea
Naseon Rasŏn KP-13 City 746 Rajin Kwanbuk North Korea
PyeonganbukNorth Pyeongan PyonganbukNorth P'yŏngan KP-03 Province 12,680 Sinuiju Kwanso North Korea
PyeongannamSouth Pyeongan PyongannamSouth P'yŏngan KP-02 Province 11,891 Pyongsong Kwanso North Korea
Pyeongyang P'yŏngyang KP-01 City 1,100 Chung Kwanso North Korea
Yanggang Ryanggang KP-10 Province 13,880 Hyesan Kwannam North Korea
Sejong Sechong KR-50 City 465 Hansol Hoseo South Korea
Seoul Sŏul [1] KR-11 City 605 Jung Sudogwon South Korea
Ulsan Ulsan KR-31 City 1,057 Nam Yeongnam South Korea
1see Names of Seoul; 2 Daegu excluded

See also


^ Sources include Nahm 1988; [1] (in Korean).


  • Nahm, Andrew C. (1988). Korea: Tradition and Transformation - A History of the Korean People. Elizabeth, NJ: Hollym International.

External links

  • Map North Korea
  • Map South Korea***DEAD LINK***
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