Eight Provinces of Korea

Eight Provinces of Korea
Eight Provinces
Hangul 팔도
Revised Romanization Paldo
McCune–Reischauer P'alto

During most of the Joseon Dynasty, Korea was divided into eight provinces (do; ; ). The eight provinces' boundaries remained unchanged for almost five centuries from 1413 to 1895, and formed a geographic paradigm that is still reflected today in the Korean Peninsula's administrative divisions, dialects, and regional distinctions. The names of all eight provinces are still preserved today, in one form or another. These eight historical provinces form both North and South Korea, and are not to be confused with the current eight provinces that make up South Korea.



Eight Provinces of Korea

Provinces before 1895

In 1413 (the 13th year of the reign of King Taejong), the northeastern boundary of Korea was extended to the Tumen River. The country was reorganized into eight provinces: Chungcheong, Gangwon, Gyeonggi, Gyeongsang, Jeolla, P'unghae (renamed Hwanghae in 1417), P'yŏngan, and Yŏnggil (eventually renamed Hamgyŏng in 1509).

Districts of 1895-96

For almost 500 years, the eight-province system remained virtually unchanged. In 1895 (the 32nd year of the reign of King Gojong), the five-century-old provincial system was abolished. On May 26 of that year—as part of the Gabo Reform—the country was redivided into 23 districts, each named for the city or county that was its capital.

(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):

Andong, Chuncheon, Chungju, Daegu, Dongnae, Gangneung, Gongju, Haeju, Hamhŭng, Hanseong, Hongju, Incheon, Jeju, Jeonju, Jinju, Kaesŏng, Kanggye, Kapsan, Kyŏngsŏng, Naju, Namwon, P'yŏngyang, Ŭiju

Restored provinces of 1896

The new system of districts did not last long, however, as one year later, on August 4, 1896 (the 33rd year of King Gojong), the former eight provinces were restored, with five of them (Chungcheong, Gyeongsang, Jeolla, Hamgyŏng, and P'yŏngan), being divided into north and south halves, to form a total of 13 provinces. This structure remained unchanged through the entire lifetime of the Korean Empire (1897–1910) and the Japanese Colonial Period (1910–1945). Since the end of World War II and the division of Korea in 1945, special cities and administrative regions and a handful of new provinces have been added in both the South and North.

Cultural significance

The boundaries between the eight provinces for the most part followed rivers, mountain chains, and other natural boundaries, and consequently corresponded closely to dialect and cultural divisions. Because of this natural fit between the provincial boundaries and the "real world," most of the provincial boundaries and names have survived in one form or another down to today, and most Koreans are keenly aware of the regional and dialect distinctions that still exist.

For example, a famous regional rivalry (akin to, but somewhat more heated than, that between the American north and south) exists between Gyeongsang and Jeolla residents, sites of the ancient kingdoms of Silla and Baekje respectively, due to historic social, economic, and political differences, some of which have continued into the present day in more muted form. Most of the traditional provinces also had alternative regional names which are still used today (especially Honam, Yeongdong, and Yeongnam), at least in speech, if not on paper.

Modern-day usage

The term Paldo ("Eight Provinces") is itself often used as a shorthand to denote Korea as a whole, or to describe the traditional folk culture of Korea's regions. Thus, one sometimes finds such expressions as:

  • Paldo kimchi in reference to the many varieties of kimchi unique to particular regions of Korea;
  • Paldo Arirang to denote the hundreds of regional versions of the popular folk song Arirang; and
  • Paldo sori to broadly refer to the diversity of folk music (sori; "sounds") across Korea.

Cf. the four Provinces of Ireland—where reference to the ancient provinces is used to talk of the entire Irish island.


With the exception of Gyeonggi (see note 2 below), each province took its name from the initial Hanja (Sino-Korean characters) of two of its principal cities. The origin of each province's name is detailed in the table below.

Table of provinces

The table below lists the eight provinces in romanized spelling, Hangul and Hanja; the origin of their names; their capitals, dialects, and regional names; and the 13 provinces that replaced them in 1896. (The capitals and regional names are as of the mid 19th century. Since they were not official, other regional names were also used, but the ones in the table are the most widely used or representative.)

Province Hangul Hanja Name Origin Capital Regional Name Dialect Post-1896 Provinces
Chungcheong 충청도 忠淸道 Chungju,
Gongju Hoseo (1) Chungcheong
North / South
Gangwon 강원도 江原道 Gangneung,
Wonju Gwandong
(Yeongseo, Yeongdong (2))
Gyeonggi 경기도 京畿道 (See note) Hanseong
Gijeon (3) Seoul
Gyeongsang 경상도 慶尙道 Gyeongju,
Daegu Yeongnam Gyeongsang
North / South
Hamgyŏng 함경도 咸鏡道 Hamhŭng,
Hamhŭng Kwanbuk, Kwannam (4) Hamgyŏng
North / South
Hwanghae 황해도 黃海道 Hwangju,
Haeju Haesŏ Hwanghae
Hwanghae (5)
Jeolla 전라도 全羅道 Jeonju,
Naju (6)
Jeonju Honam Jeolla
Dialect; Jeju Dialect (7)
North / South
Jeolla / Jeju-do
P'yŏngan 평안도 平安道 P'yŏngyang,
P'yŏngyang Kwansŏ P'yŏngan
North / South


1. Pronounced "Ho-suh," not "Ho-zay-oh," as the spelling might suggest.
2. "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.
3. 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.
4. "Kwanbuk" was used to designate either the province as whole, or only the northern part thereof. In the latter case, "Kwannam" was then used to denote the southern part of the province.
5. The modern-day division of the province into North and South did not occur until 1954.
6. 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.
7. The distinctive Jeju Dialect is used on Jeju Island, which became a separate province in 1946.

See also

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Provinces of Korea — This article describes the historical development of Korea s provinces (Do ; hangul: 도; hanja: 道). For detailed information on current administrative divisions, please see Administrative divisions of North Korea and Administrative divisions… …   Wikipedia

  • Korea — This article is about the territory and civilization. For other uses, see Korea (disambiguation). Korea …   Wikipedia

  • Korea, South — Introduction Korea, South Background: After World War II, a republic was set up in the southern half of the Korean Peninsula while a Communist style government was installed in the north. The Korean War (1950 53) had US and other UN forces… …   Universalium

  • Korea, North — Introduction Korea, North Background: Following World War II, Korea was split with the northern half coming under Communist domination and the southern portion becoming Western oriented. KIM Chong il has ruled North Korea since his father and the …   Universalium

  • Korea — /keuh ree euh, kaw , koh /, n. 1. a former country in E Asia, on a peninsula SE of Manchuria and between the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea: a kingdom prior to 1910; under Japanese rule 1910 45; now divided at 38° N into North Korea and South… …   Universalium

  • South Korea — ROK redirects here. For other uses, see ROK (disambiguation). Republic of Korea 대한민국 大韓民國 Daehanminguk …   Wikipedia

  • Names of Korea — There are various names of Korea in use today, derived from ancient kingdoms and dynasties. The modern English name Korea is an exonym derived from the Goryeo period and is used by both North Korea and South Korea in international contexts. In… …   Wikipedia

  • List of Korea-related topics (H) — This is a partial list of Korea related topics beginning with H.korean index H Ha*Ha Jiwon, a South Korean actress. *Ha Tae kwon, a male badminton player from South Korea. *Hadong County, a district in Gyeongsangnam do. *Haedong Goseungjeon, a… …   Wikipedia

  • Gangwon-do (South Korea) — Infobox Korean Provinces Name = Gangwon Name2 = 강원 Hangul = 강원 도 Hanja = 江原道 Revised Romanization = Gang( )won do McCune Reischauer = Kangwŏn do Government = Province Capital = Chuncheon Governor = Kim Jin sun Region = Gwandong (Yeongseo: western …   Wikipedia

  • Kangwon-do (North Korea) — Infobox Korean settlement title = Kangwŏn Province context = north hangul = 강원도 hanja = 江原道 rr = Gangwon do mr = Kangwŏn do hangulshort = 강원 rrshort = Gangwon mrshort = Kangwŏn gov = Province capital = Wŏnsan divs = 2 cities (si), 15 counties… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.