[KS] Western Equivalents to Korean Area sizes

Brother Anthony ansonjae at sogang.ac.kr
Sun Feb 26 08:27:30 EST 2006

Many of these words are only used in combinations, to form the names of 
localities in an address, and often they need no translation. Thus for example 
you have 경상남-도 (South Gyeongsang Province)  and that contains a number of 
cities / municipalities (시) for example 진주시 Jinju-shi, but except when writing 
the address, you do not usually use the -si ending. It is simply Chinju. 


When a locality is not yet sufficiently populous to be administered as a 
separate city, it is designated as a -군 (-gun) and confusion arises because 
quite often a -gun expands and becomes a -si. A city is governed by an 
elected 시장 (mayor) while a -gun is governed by an appointed 군수. Each -gun 
is divided into a number of districts / precincts with names ending in -면 
(-myeon), but the main focus of population and business in a gun is called by a 
name ending in -읍 (-eup), it can be translated as town / township, and 
that area is also known as an 읍내 (town-center), but it is not subdivided. Each 
myeon / precinct is usually composed of a number of smaller areas with names 
ending in -리 (-ri locality?) that have no separate administrative existence. The 
myeon, like a dong in a town, has its own myeon office and its local head 


By contrast, the main divisions within the built-up parts of smaller cities 
(-si) have names ending in -동 (-dong) and this is the same word as 동내 
(neighborhood) though 동네 is more common. Originally the word means 
'village' and is a significant administrative unit, each -dong having its own 
dongsamuso but the English word 'village does not correspond to an urban 
division, so probably 'local or precinct office' would be the best (the latter a 
rather American) term, but in fact one always calls it the 'dong office'. In the 
rural areas of Korea, it is quite common to find a number of more rural 
districts still termed -myeon included within the boundaries of a -si. You do 
not mention the ultimate urban subdivisions of each dong into -반 and -통 
that I would not even think of translating, in theory they still form part of 
complete addresses, though they seem to be on the wane.


The second reference to a -do presumably refers to its other meaning of 
'island' in place names (some islands are no longer islands). Jeju-do is 
correctly translated as 'Jeju Province' (it being the only island large enough 
to be its own province) but most of the time people forget this.


The height of confusion comes with Ganghwa Island, which is a separate -gun 
but administered by the city of Incheon, divided, as it was before its 
incorporation, into a network of -myeon, each of which is a patchwork of 
tiny -ri localities.


When a town / city is large enough, it may be divided into a number of larger 
divisions known as -gu (ward / borough / district) each with its own 
administration, housed in a gucheong (ward-office) and covering a number of 
-dongs. The same word -gu is used for an electoral precinct.


Guyeok is not used in place names, or administration, it simply refers to any 
kind of specified zone or district.


The full administrative name and proper address name for Seoul is 서울특별시 
(Seoul special city) for fairly obvious reasons, but most people just write 
'Seoul' or 'Seoul-si' on envelopes. Busan, Daegu, Incheon, Daejeon, Gwangju and 
Ulsan are all autonomous -광역시 (major cities) and letters addressed to them 
should not include the name of any province. The other terms are no longer 
current, I think.

I hope this is clear?


Brother Anthony

Sogang University (Shinsu-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul-teukpyeolsi)


The full post-office list of such divisions can be downloaded from 

도 Do-Province 


군 Kun-?

구 Ku-?

구역 Kuyok-?

시 Si-City (within city-Dong, district? or neighborhood?)

군 Kun-?

도 Do-?

읍 Eup-?

면 Myeon-?

이 Ri/Ni-?

특구 Tukgu-Special Districts?  (not a common)

특시 Tuksi-Special City? (Also not common)

직시 Giksi-Directly controlled city

직활 Gikhwal-?

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://koreanstudies.com/pipermail/koreanstudies_koreanstudies.com/attachments/20060226/5b049e89/attachment.html>

More information about the Koreanstudies mailing list