List of special cities of South Korea

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Special city
Revised Romanization teukbyeolsi
McCune–Reischauer t'ŭkpyŏlsi
Metropolitan city
Revised Romanization gwangyeoksi
McCune–Reischauer kwangyŏksi
Special autonomus city
Revised Romanization teukbyeol-jachisi
McCune–Reischauer t’ŭkpyŏl-chach’isi

Special cities are one of the first-level administrative divisions within South Korea. There are 8 first-level cities in South Korea: Busan, Daegu, Daejeon, Gwangju, Incheon, Sejong, Seoul and Ulsan.

Position in hierarchy and types

Special cities are the highest-ranked administrative divisions in South Korea. These cities have equal status to the provinces. There are three kinds of first-level city in South Korea.

Type Hangul Hanja RR City names No. of cities
Special city teukbyeolsi Seoul 1
Metropolitan city gwangyeoksi Busan, Daegu, Incheon, Gwangju, Daejeon, Ulsan 6
Special autonomous city teukbyeol-jachisi Sejong 1
  • Seoul was designated a "special free city" (teukbyeol jayusi; 특별자유시; 特別自由市) separate from Gyeonggi Province on August 15, 1946; it became a "special city" on August 15, 1949.[1]
  • Metropolitan cities were called "direct control (meaning directly-administered) city" (jikhalsi; 직할시; 直轄市) before 1995.


In South Korean special city and metropolitan cities, the Mayor is the highest-ranking official in charge. The Mayor is directly elected by the people registered in the city for a duration of four years. e.g. Mayor of Seoul.

Metropolitan functions such as water supply and public transport are integrated into the sole prefecture other than scattered to each municipality.

List of metropolitan cities

Name Hangul Hanja Type ISO Population Area
City seat Region Province
split from
Year of
Busan 부산광역시 釜山廣域市 Metropolitan city KR-26 3,574,340 766 4,666 Yeonje Yeongnam South Gyeongsang 1963
Daegu 대구광역시 大邱廣域市 Metropolitan city KR-27 2,512,604 884 2,842 Jung Yeongnam North Gyeongsang 1981
Incheon 인천광역시 仁川廣域市 Metropolitan city KR-28 2,953,255 1,062 2,810 Namdong Sudogwon Gyeonggi 1981
Gwangju 광주광역시 光州廣域市 Metropolitan city KR-29 1,415,953 501 2,824 Seo Honam South Jeolla 1986
Daejeon 대전광역시 大田廣域市 Metropolitan city KR-30 1,442,857 540 2,673 Seo Hoseo South Chungcheong 1989
Sejong 세종특별자치시 世宗特別自治市 Special autonomous city KR-50 122,263 465 380 Boram-dong Hoseo South Chungcheong 2012
Seoul 서울특별시 서울特別市* Special city KR-11 10,464,051 605 17,288 Jung Sudogwon Gyeonggi 1946
Ulsan 울산광역시 蔚山廣域市 Metropolitan city KR-31 1,126,879 1,056 1,030 Nam Yeongnam South Gyeongsang 1997
  • There are no Hanja for "Seoul"; in Chinese, it is written as 首爾/首尔 (pinyin: Shǒu'ěr), a transcription based on the pronunciation of "Seoul". As a suffix, the character Gyeong (/) is used, which means "capital".

Specific cities that meet the minimum requirements for Metropolitan city status but have not yet been nominated

  • Suwon (수원시 / 水原市) - Population: 1,177,376; Area: 121.1 km²; Density: 9,722.34 /km²
  • Changwon (창원시 / 昌原市) - Population: 1,106,081; Area: 736.34 km²; Density: 1,502.13 /km²
  • Goyang (고양시 / 高陽市) - Population: 1,014,162; Area: 267.29 km²; Density: 3.794.23 /km²

Specific cities with more than 900,000

  • Seongnam (성남시 / 城南市) - Population: 972,797; Area: 141.70 km²; Density: 6,865.18 /km²
  • Yongin (용인시 / 龍仁市) - Population: 968,346; Area: 591.36 km²; Density: 1,637.48 /km²

See also


  1. ^ 행정연혁 (in Korean). Seoul Metropolitan Government. Retrieved 15 March 2013.
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