List of special cities of South Korea

Special city
Hangul 특별시
Hanja 特別市
Revised Romanization teukbyeolsi
McCune–Reischauer t'ŭkpyŏlsi
Metropolitan city
Hangul 광역시
Hanja 廣域市
Revised Romanization gwangyeoksi
McCune–Reischauer kwangyŏksi
Special autonomus city
Hangul 특별자치시
Hanja 特別自治市
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.

TypeHangulHanjaRRCity namesNo. of cities
Special cityteukbyeolsiSeoul1
Metropolitan citygwangyeoksiBusan, Daegu, Incheon, Gwangju, Daejeon, Ulsan6
Special autonomous cityteukbyeol-jachisiSejong1
  • 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

NameHangulHanjaTypeISO PopulationArea
City seat RegionProvince
split from
Year of
Busan부산광역시釜山廣域市Metropolitan cityKR-26 3,574,3407664,666Yeonje YeongnamSouth Gyeongsang1963
Daegu대구광역시大邱廣域市Metropolitan cityKR-27 2,512,6048842,842Jung YeongnamNorth Gyeongsang1981
Incheon인천광역시仁川廣域市Metropolitan cityKR-28 2,953,2551,0622,810Namdong SudogwonGyeonggi1981
Gwangju광주광역시光州廣域市Metropolitan cityKR-29 1,415,9535012,824Seo HonamSouth Jeolla1986
Daejeon대전광역시大田廣域市Metropolitan cityKR-30 1,442,8575402,673Seo HoseoSouth Chungcheong1989
Sejong세종특별자치시世宗特別自治市Special autonomous cityKR-50 122,263465380Hansol-dong HoseoSouth Chungcheong2012
Seoul서울특별시서울特別市*Special cityKR-11 10,464,05160517,288Jung SudogwonGyeonggi1946
Ulsan울산광역시蔚山廣域市Metropolitan cityKR-31 1,126,8791,0561,030Nam YeongnamSouth Gyeongsang1997
  • Notes: 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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