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Administrative divisions of North Korea

The administrative divisions of North Koreamarker are organized into three hierarchical levels. Many of the units have equivalents in the system of South Koreamarker. At the highest level are nine provinces, two directly-governed cities, and three special administrative divisions. The second-level divisions are cities, counties, wards, and districts. These are further subdivided into third-level entities: towns, neighborhoods, villages, and workers' districts.

The three-level administrative system used in North Korea was first inaugurated by Kim Il Sung in 1952, as part of a massive restructuring of local government. Previously, the country had used a multi-level system similar to that still used in South Koreamarker.

(The English translations are not official, but approximations. Names are romanized according to the McCune-Reischauer system as officially used in North Korea; the editor was also guided by the spellings used on the 2003 National Geographicmarker map of Korea).

First-level divisions

See Provinces, Special administrative regions, Directly governed cities, and Former directly governed cities below for a complete list.
The nine provinces (Do; , ) derive from the traditional provinces of Korea, but have been further subdivided since the division of Korea. They are large areas including cities, rural and mountainous regions. The two directly governed cities (Chikhalsi; 직할시, ) are large metropolitan cities that have been separated from their former provinces to become first-level units. Four other cities have been directly governed in the past, but were subsequently reunited with their provinces or otherwise reorganized.

The three special administrative regions were all created in 2002 for the development of collaborative ventures with South Koreamarker and other countries. One of them, the Sinŭiju Special Administrative Region, was intended to draw Chinesemarker investment and enterprise, but as of 2006 appears never to have been implemented. The special administrative regions do not have any known second- and third-level subdivisions.

Second-level divisions

See List of second-level administrative divisions of North Korea for a complete list.
A map of North Korea with second-level divisions
The most common second-level division is the county (Kun; , ), a less urbanized area within a province or directly governed city. The more populous districts within provinces are cities (Si; , ), and the city of Namphomarker is a special city (T'ŭkkŭpsi; 특급시, ). Some provinces also have two types of districts (Ku, Chigu).

The city centers of the directly-governed cities are organized into wards (Kuyŏk, equivalent to South Korea Gu).

Third-level divisions

Rural parts of cities and counties are organized into villages (Ri, ). The downtown areas within cities are divided into neighborhoods (Dong, ), and a populous part of a county forms a town (Ŭp, ). Some counties also have worker's districts (Rodongjagu).


  1. Sometimes also spelled as "Yanggang" in English.

Special Administrative Regions

Directly-governed cities

  • P'yŏngyangmarker Directly Governed City (P'yŏngyang Chikhalsi; 평양 직할시; ) - 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.

Former Directly Governed Cities

  • Ch'ŏngjinmarker City (청진시; ) used to be a Directly Governed City, but is now part of North Hamgyŏng Province.
  • Hamhŭngmarker City (함흥시; ) was a Directly Governed City in the 1960s, but is now part of South Hamgyŏng Province.
  • Kaesŏngmarker City (개성시; ) (distinct from Kaesŏng Industrial Region) was a Directly Governed City until 2003, but is now part of North Hwanghae Province.
  • Namp'omarker Special City (Namp'o T'ŭkkŭpsi; 남포 특급시; ) was a Directly Governed City until 2004, but is now part of South P'yŏng'an Province.
  • Rasŏn marker Special City (Rasŏn (Rajin-Sŏnbong) Chikhalsi; 라선 (라진-선봉) 직할시; )


The sources for this article are Chosun Ilbo's pages 행정구역 현황 ("Haengjeong Guyeok Hyeonhwang") and 행정구역 개편 일지 ("Haengjeong Guyeok Gaepyeon Ilji") (Korean only; updated 2004).

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