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History of Administration

Joseon Dynasty to the Second Republic

Joseon Dynasty (Hanseongbu) – ruled by King Gojong
  • Title : Hanseongbu
  • Administrative districts: 5 bu and 47 bang (central (8), east (12), west (11), south (11), north (10)) ※ The city perimeter was marked 4km outside the city walls.
  • Population : approx. 200,000 inhabitants
  • Organization: Panyun (mayor), jwayun, wuyun (deputy mayors), jusa, seogi (clerks)
  • Location : current Korea Telecom building, 100 Sejong-ro, Jongno-gu
Colonial Period (Gyeongseongbu)
  • Title : Gyeongseongbu
  • Administrative districts: 1911 – 5 bu, 8 myeonje / 1914 – 86 dong(洞), jeong (町), and tong (通), each run by the East, West, Yongsan, and North branch offices / 1943 – branch offices nullified, reversion to old jurisdiction system comprising 7 gu (Jongno-gu, Jung-gu, Yongsan-gu, Dongdaemun-gu, Seongdong-gu, Seodaemun-gu, and Yeongdeungpo-gu)
  • Population: 988,357 inhabitants (as of 1944); Korean: 824,976, Japanese: 158,6198; gwa (division), 15 gye
  • Organization: (Secretariat, General Affairs Division, Home Affairs Division, Social Welfare Division, Education Division, Public Hygiene Division, Public Works Division, Water Supply Division, and Tax Collection Division)
  • Location : moved to the area occupied by the  current City Hall building in October 1926

※ Imperial Japan’s exploitation of Korea’s resources and explosive population growth furthered the nation’s economic woes. Survival itself became the sole objective for many Korean people. During this time, the city continued to grow with no regulations or city planning.

US Military Governance (Seoul “Special Free City”)
  • August 15, 1946: Declaration of the Seoul Charter and reorganization of its governing body
  • Based on the Home Rule Charter of the USA
  • Title : Gyeongseongbu  → Seoul Special Free City
  • Establishment of regulations : Mayor, Head of Administration, 8 Divisions / Public Management Division, Police Division, Firefighting Division, Education Division, Public Project Division, Public Health and Hygiene Division / A council, park committee, city planning committee, and permit committee were all organized under the direct supervision of the mayor
  • Publically-elected officials : Judicial, Financial Management and Financial Audit Officers

※ The USA and the Korean government body governed Seoul together, although the administration was chaotic due to a lack of administrative experience.

The First Republic (1948-1960)
  • Nov. 17,1948: Declaration of the “Temporary Law on Local Administration” (expiry within 5 months)
  • Nov. 4, 1949:  Legislation and declaration of the “Local Administration Laws”
  • Title : Seoul Metropolitan Government
  • Establishment of regulations : City Council
  • Organization : mayor, vice-mayor, 7 bureaus, 34 divisions, 114 internal affairs divisions, Finance Bureau, Education Bureau, Construction bureau, Business Bureau, Social Bureau, Police Bureau ※ The police came under the mayor’s jurisdiction


The Second Republic (1960-1961)

First elected mayor Kim, Sang-don takes office.

Kim pledged to ① prevent unnecessary spending of the city budget; ② prevent civil servants from embezzling public funds; and ③ ensure swift processing of administrative work. Kim resigned after the May 16 Coup after struggling with trust issues regarding the affairs of the Seoul government.

The Third Republic to the Present

Elevation of Seoul’s Legal Status

The Act on Special Measures for the Administration of the Seoul Special Metropolitan Government was enacted in 1962 to raise Seoul’s legal status along with that of its civil servants, by separating it from the aforementioned local district laws that placed Seoul under the jurisdiction of the  Minister of Home Affairs.


Elevation of Legal Status
  • Seoul Metropolitan Government is placed directly under the jurisdiction of the prime minister.
  • Seoul Mayor becomes  a Privileged Government Position.
  • Seoul Mayor can report city affairs at cabinet meetings.


Elevation of Status of Civil Servants
  • The status of the director general of planning and coordination, the directors of bureaus, and the section chief was elevated by one tier.
  • The status of the  vice-mayor, 7 bureaus, 34 divisions, and 114 internal affairs divisions was elevated and expanded in accordance with a new law.

※ The enactment of the new law represented a major paradigm shift for Seoul’s administration

  • The Mayor of Seoul became a state minister, allowing him or her to participate in the establishment of policies for Seoul.
  • Absolute delegation with authority over work distribution, planning, amendments, and regulation gave Seoul executive authority.
  • The combining of similar tasks, separation of planning and management, and elevation of the status of supporting organizations improved  executive capabilities.