Special cities of North Korea

Special cities are one of the first-level administrative divisions within North Korea. There are two top-level cities in North Korea: Pyongyang and Rason.

Special city
CategoryUnitary State
LocationDemocratic People's Republic of Korea
Number4 Special Cities
Populations205,000 (Rason) – 3,255,388 (Pyongyang)
Areas710 square miles (1,800 km2) (Rason) – 400 square miles (1,000 km2) (Pyongyang)
  • Single-Party Government

Position in hierarchy and types

Special cities are the higher-ranked administrative divisions in North Korea. There are three kinds of special cities in North Korea.

TypeChosŏn'gŭlHanchaMcCune–ReischauerCity namesNo. of cities
Direct-administered city직할시直轄市ChikhalsiPyongyang1
Special city특별시特別市T'ŭkpyŏlsiRason, Nampo, Kaesong3
Special-level city특급시特級市T'ŭkkŭpsi0

The first level cities have equal status to the provinces.

List of special cities

NameChosŏn'gŭlHanchaTypeISO PopulationArea
Capital RegionProvince
Year of
Pyongyang평양직할시平壤直轄市Directly administered cityKP-01 3,255,3883,1941,019 Chung-guyokKwansoSouth Pyongan1946
Rason라선특별시羅先特別市Special cityKP-13 205,000746275 Rajin-guyokKwanbukNorth Hamgyong2010
Nampo남포특별시南浦特別市Special cityKP-?? 366,815829442 Waudo-guyokKwansoSouth Pyongan2011
Kaesong개성특별시開城特別市Special-level citynone 308,4401,309235 HaesoNorth Hwanghae2019

Note: Pyongyang is classified as a capital city (chikhalsi), not a special city as Seoul in South Korea. In fact, the North Korean national newspaper and broadcasting say "Pyongyang Chikhalsi". Some sources, most of them coming from South Korea, refer the city as a special city; however, these are old sources. Moreover, South Korea has corrected the city as a directly governed city, according to a South Korean newspaper in 1994. The official name of Pyongyang would be "Pyongyang-si" in the Republic of Korea, which officially claims to represent the entire peninsula.

List of defunct special cities

Division name Chosŏn'gŭl Hancha Province absorb into Administered Years
Chongjin청진시淸津市 North Hamgyong 1960–1967, 1977–1985
Hamhung함흥시咸興市 South Hamgyong 1960–1967

See also


  • 행정구역 현황 [Haengjeong Guyeok Hyeonhwang]. Chosun Ilbo (in Korean). 2004. Archived from the original on 2006-01-09.
  • 행정구역 개편 일지 [Haengjeong Guyeok Gaepyeon Ilji]. Chosun Ilbo (in Korean). 2004. Archived from the original on 2006-11-02.

    Further reading

    • Dormels, Rainer. North Korea's Cities: Industrial facilities, internal structures and typification. Jimoondang, 2014. ISBN 978-89-6297-167-5