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Provinces of Korea

(Note: This page is currently under construction. Some information below is incomplete, and some material is duplicated.... This will be fixed shortly.)

This article describes the historical evolution of Korea's provinces (Do; (; ). For detailed information on current administrative divisions, please see Administrative divisions of Korea.

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

Table of contents
1 Historical summary
2 Provinces of Unified Silla
3 Provinces of Goryeo
4 Provinces of Joseon
5 Provinces of the Korean Empire
6 Provinces of North Korea
7 Provinces of South Korea
8 References
9 External links

Historical summary

During the Unified Silla Period (AD 668-935), Korea was divided into nine Ju (주; 州), an old word for "province" that was used to name both the kingdom's provinces and its provincial capitals. (The editor's Cantonese-English dictionary translates 州 variously as "prefecture" or "department.")

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; 牧)]" (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; 界?). The name and concept of Do originated from the Chinese Dao.

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 1896 (a year before the country became the Korean Empire), five of the eight provinces were divided into north and south halves (Bukdo (북도; 北道) and Namdo (남도; 南道) respectively), giving a total of thirteen Do. The provincial boundaries remained unchanged throughout the Japanese Colonial Period.

With the surrender of Japan in 1945, the Korean peninsula was divided into Soviet (northern) and American (southern) zones of occupation, 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 Soviet- and American-occupied halves.

In 1946, in the southern half of the country, the newly formed Jeju Province was split off from South Jeolla Province. In 1948, the countries of North and South Korea gained independence. There were total of fourteen Do between the two countries, including the three provinces straddling the 38th parallel. During the same period, the southern cities of Seoul and Busan became Special Cities.

At the end of the Korean War (1950-1953), a new boundary between North and South Korea was established along the Demilitarized Zone, which cuts across the 38th parallel at an acute angle from southwest to northeast. Hwanghae Province now fell wholly within North Korea, while Gyeonggi and Gangwon (Kangwŏn) Provinces remained split between North and South.

In the same year (1953), the North Korean provinces were redivided. The North Korean section of Gyeonggi Province was redesignated a special city (Kaesŏng), along with P'yŏngyang and Ch'ŏngjin (which is no longer a special city). The North Korean section of Kangwŏn Province was expanded to include the southern part of South Hamgyŏng. Hwanghae was divided into north and south halves. Two new provinces--Chagang and Yanggang--were created from the inland sections of North P'yŭngan and North Hamg'yŏng Provinces respectively.

Since 1953, provincial boundaries in both the North and South have remained unchanged. New cities and special administrative regions have been created, however, since then: 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 Korea.

Provinces of Unified Silla

In AD 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 Kangwŏn Province in the east. In 721, Silla solidifed its northern boundary with Barhae (Bohai) (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 9 provinces (Ju): 3 in the pre-660 territory of Silla, and 3 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, Hangeul, and Hanja, as well as the provincial capital, and the equivalent modern-day province.

Former kingdom Province Hangeul Hanja Capital Modern equivalent
Silla Yangju 양주 揚州 Yangju Eastern Gyeongsang
Gangju 강주 Gangju Western South Gyeongsang
Sangju 상주 尙州 Sangju Western North Gyeongsang
Baekje Muju 무주 Muju South Jeolla
Jeonju 전주 全州 Jeonju North Jeolla
Ungju 웅주 Gongju South Chungcheong
Goguryeo Hanju 한주 漢州 Hanju
North Chungcheong,
Gyeonggi, Hwanghae
Sakju 삭주 Sakju Western Gangwon
Myeongju 명주 Myeongju Eastern Gangwon

Provinces of Goryeo

In 892, Gyeonhwon 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 Yalu (Amnok) River. A wall was constructed from the Yalu (Amnok) River in the northwest to East Sea (Sea of Japan) 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; 牧): (Note that Gwangju-mok is modern-day Gwangju in Gyeonggi Province, not the larger Gwangju Metropolitan City.)

The twelve districts were soon redivided into ten provinces (Do; 도; 道). 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; 界?).

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

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
Seungju (?)
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

Provinces of the Korean Empire

Provinces of North Korea

(Main article: Administrative divisions of Korea)

The North Korean portion of Gyeonggi Province eventually became today's Kaesŏng Industrial Region. The North Korean section of Kangwŏn was expanded to include part of South Hamgyŏng. In 1982, Hwanghae was split into North and South Hwanghae Provinces. Also in 1982, the new province of Chagang was formed from the eastern part of North P'yŏngan, while Yanggang Province was formed from parts of North and South Hamgyŏng Provinces. In addition to Kaesŏng, the cities of P'yŏngyang, Namp'o, Rasŏn (Rajin-Sŏnbong), Shinŭiju, and Ch'ŏngjin and the tourist region of Kŭmgang-san have all attained provincial-level status as self-governing cities or special administrative regions, although Ch'ŏngjin has since reverted to being part of North Hamgyŏng Province.

Listed below are the modern provinces of North Korea, with the following information:

Provinces of South Korea

(Main article: Administrative divisions of Korea)

Provinces in South Korea have not been reorganized the way they have been in the North; the main change has been the creation of Special Cities and Metropolitan Cities--cities with the same status as provinces. Today (2003), there are seven such cities: Seoul, Busan, Daegu, Incheon, Gwangju, Daejeon, and Ulsan.

Listed below are the modern provinces of South Korea, with the following information:


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

External links

For other integral meanings of Do in East Asian cultures, see Do.