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 RomajaM–R RomajaHangulHanja Name originCapitalRegionKorean dialectPost-1896 Provinces
ChungcheongCh'ungch'ŏng 충청도忠淸道 Chungju (충주 忠州),
Cheongju (청주 淸州)
GongjuHoseoChungcheong dialect Chungcheongbuk
GangwonKangwŏn 강원도江原道 Gangneung (강릉 江陵),
Wonju (원주 原州)
(Yeongseo, Yeongdong (1))
Gangwon dialect Gangwon
GyeonggiKyŏnggi 경기도京畿道 (See note)Hanseong
Gijeon (2)Seoul dialect Gyeonggi
GyeongsangKyŏngsang 경상도慶尙道 Gyeongju (경주 慶州),
Sangju (상주 尙州)
DaeguYeongnamGyeongsang dialect Gyeongsangbuk
HamgyeongHamgyŏng 함경도咸鏡道 Hamhung (함흥 咸興),
Kyongsong (경성 鏡城)
HamhungKwanbuk, Kwannam (3) Hamgyŏng dialect Hamgyŏngbuk
HwanghaeHwanghae 황해도黃海道 Hwangju (황주 黃州),
Haeju (해주 海州)
HaejuHaesoHwanghae dialect Hwanghae (4)
JeollaChŏlla 전라도全羅道 Jeonju (전주 全州),
Naju (나주 羅州)(5)
JeonjuHonamJeolla dialect;
Jeju language (6)
PyeonganP'yŏngan 평안도平安道 Pyongyang (평양 平壤),
Anju (안주 安州)
PyongyangKwansoPyongan 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; 北道) and Namdo (남도; 南道) 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 of Korea under Japanese colonial rule (Chōsen)

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

Japanese nameKanaHanja/KanjiKorean nameHangul

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 RomajaM–R RomajaHangul/ChosongulHanjaISOType AreaCapitalRegionCountry
BusanPusan 부산시釜山市KR-26City 767YeonjeYeongnamSouth Korea
North ChungcheongNorth Ch'ungch'ŏng 충청북도忠清北道KR-43Province 7,436CheongjuHoseoSouth Korea
South ChungcheongSouth Ch'ungch'ŏng 충청남도忠清南道KR-44Province 8,352HongseongHoseoSouth Korea
DaeguTaegu 대구시大邱市KR-27City 884JungYeongnamSouth Korea
DaejeonTaejŏn 대전시大田市KR-30City 539SeoHoseoSouth Korea
GangwonKangwŏn 강원도江原道KR-42Province 16,894ChuncheonGwandongSouth Korea
GangwonKangwŏn 강원도江原道KP-07Province 11,091WonsanGwandongNorth Korea
GwangjuKwangju 광주시光州市KR-29City 501SeoHonamSouth Korea
GyeonggiKyŏnggi 경기도京畿道KR-41Province 10,131SuwonSudogwonSouth Korea
North GyeongsangNorth Kyŏngsang 경상북도慶尙北道KR-47Province 19,440AndongYeongnamSouth Korea
South GyeongsangSouth Kyŏngsang 경상남도慶尙南道KR-48Province 11,859ChangwonYeongnamSouth Korea
North HamgyeongNorth Hamgyŏng 함경북도咸鏡北道KP-09Province 15,980ChongjinKwanbukNorth Korea
South HamgyeongSouth Hamgyŏng 함경남도咸鏡南道KP-08Province 18,534HamhungKwannamNorth Korea
North Hwanghae North Hwanghae 황해북도 黃海北道 KP-06 Province 8,154 Sariwon Haeso North Korea
South Hwanghae South Hwanghae 황해남도 黃海南道 KP-05 Province 8,450 Haeju Haeso North Korea
IncheonInch'ŏn 인천시仁川市KR-28City 1,029NamdongSudogwonSouth Korea
JagangChagang 자강도慈江道KP-04Province 16,765KanggyeKwansoNorth Korea
JejuCheju 제주도濟州道KR-49Province 1,846Jeju CityJejudoSouth Korea
North JeollaNorth Chŏlla 전라북도全羅北道KR-45Province 8,043JeonjuHonamSouth Korea
South JeollaSouth Chŏlla 전라남도全羅南道KR-46Province 11,858MuanHonamSouth Korea
NampoNamp'o 남포시南浦市KP-??City 829KangsŏKwansoNorth Korea
NaseonRasŏn 나선시/라선시羅先市KP-13City 746RajinKwanbukNorth Korea
North PyeonganNorth P'yŏngan 평안북도平安北道KP-03Province 12,680SinuijuKwansoNorth Korea
South PyeonganSouth P'yŏngan 평안남도平安南道KP-02Province 11,891PyongsongKwansoNorth Korea
PyeongyangP'yŏngyang 평양시平壤市KP-01City 1,100ChungKwansoNorth Korea
YanggangRyanggang 양강도/량강도兩江道KP-10Province 13,880HyesanKwannamNorth Korea
SejongSechong 세종시世宗市KR-50City 465HansolHoseoSouth Korea
SeoulSŏul 서울시서울市[1]KR-11City 605JungSudogwonSouth Korea
UlsanUlsan 울산시蔚山市KR-31City 1,057NamYeongnamSouth Korea
1see Names of Seoul

See also


^ Sources include Nahm 1988; (in Korean).


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