~by Merry Law, President of WorldVu LLC
South Korea, in a project lasting for almost 20 years, has completely replaced its address system in the country. The new address systems organization and logic changed from old addresses based on land parcels in reference to the locational hierarchical government units, to new addresses based on a building numbers and street names within a locality.
The systematic nature of the addresses, plus the database of all address locations, provides significant advantages over the previous system. According to the South Korean government, “The new address system will fundamentally make it easy to find a road, expedite the distribution and reduce the expenses. This new system will also make it possible to effectively cope with disaster situations such as fire, first aid and urgent rescues. It also helps us create a more intelligent system when responding to crimes. In addition, it will energize IT-related industries, such as mobile navigation, ITS, LBS, telemetrics and the like.”
The new database of addresses allows for quick identification of locations that will be made available at a low cost for businesses. Ideally, will let private sector companies take advantage of the information in the database for address hygiene, delivery services, and any other permitted marketing uses. All in all, the new system will help South Korea further advance its business opportunities and position in the global world economy.
History of South Korea’s Addressing System
South Korea’s land-lot addresses were introduced under Japanese rule in the early 1900’s. As expansion and urbanization occurred, the land-lot address system became more difficult to keep up-to-date. The task of maintaining location information using the land-lot system had become increasingly costly and was not completely reliable, according to the South Korean government. Korea Post plans to completely phase out these old addresses. The old addresses are no longer used in governmental applications. However, delivery of incoming international mail to the old-style addresses still continues at this time.
Plans to change the outdated addressing system started in 1996. When authorizing legislation passed in 1997, the project has moved forward in a series of methodical stages. With 230 self-governing bodies (various levels of governmental administrative units), the project required complex coordination between governmental authorities. The road posts, doorplates, real estate registers, resident registrations, building registers, other official documents and signs needed to be changed to reflect the new addresses. The final stage of establishing the new addresses was completed in 2015 with the introduction of new postal codes.
Addresses Prior to the New System
The previous land-lot addressing system, similar to that used in Japan, designated each parcel of land by reference to the hierarchical governmental units where it was located. Addresses had two or more of these administrative units in addition to the local delivery information, such as street and building information. A province (-do), city (-si) or municipality (-gun) was further subdivided in –gu, -dong, -myeon, -ri and –ga. (In transliterated names, the suffix following the hyphen indicated the unit type.)
The specific units required depended on the location, with differences in the units used in major cities, smaller towns and rural areas. An address might include the following designations, all of which were used in the South Korean land-lot system, in addition to more specific information identifying the recipient and the premises.
- Oechi-ri Worya-myeon Hampyeong-gun Jeollanam-do
- Worya-myeon Hampyeong-gun Jeollanam-do
- Juseong-dong Sangdang-gu, Cheongju-si Chungcheongbuk-do
- Daerang-dong Jecheon-si Chungcheongbuk-do
- Doma-dong Seo-gu Daejeon
- Gangyeong-ri Okpo-myeon Dalseong-gun Daegu
An example of a typical land-lot address in Seoul, South Korea might be:
The New System of Addresses
Today, the new addressing system takes a more practical and logical approach. Existing roads have been given names that reflect the local history and character, in consultation with local residents and Office of Street Administration. Building numbers were assigned sequentially with odd numbers on one side of each street and even numbers on the other. As local governments pave new roadways, they will be responsible for assigning street names and building numbers. They will also be responsible for updating, “in real time”, the database of addresses maintained by the Ministry of Public Administrator & Safety.
The new street addresses eliminate some of the administrative units that were used in the land-lot addresses, simplifying the address structure. The addresses are composed of the building number, street name, district, city or province, and postal code.
The following examples from Korea Post show the correct format for addresses written in the western alphabet.
The format differs in Korean-language addresses, shown below. Underlining in these examples is to indicate elements and is not used in addresses.
New Postal Code Numbering Formats
The 5 digit postal code breaks down like this:
- The first 2 digits correspond to the largest administrative units: either the province or the metropolitan city.
- The 3rd digit corresponds with the smaller sized city in the province, or the district-level area within the large city.
- The last 2 digits are a serial number that corresponds to a specific area within the local district.
Here are two examples of the new codes:
- 03139 corresponds to: Seoul Metropolitan City, Jongro District, Supyo 22nd Road, #17
- 26412 corresponds to: Gangwon Province, Wonju City, Namsan Road, #203
The new addressing system also includes new “intel.” Numbers in the system indicate the distance between buildings. This can be calculated by taking the difference in address numbers between two buildings, multiplied by 10 meters, equals the distance between the two buildings. For example:
(Building 1 – Building 11) X 10 Meters = 110 meters from each other.
Adoption of the New Addresses by Residents
The South Korean people have little resistance to the new addressing system. Residents are adapting quickly and they are providing and receiving new addresses as the system expands. The extensive planning, consultation with local governments and residents, and the time between initiation and final implementation all contributed to success of the new system.
Some observers in South Korea have noted minor objections to the elimination of the dong or other neighborhood identifier, which is no longer used in the new system. Since there is considerable connection to the neighborhoods, the new addresses may still be given with the neighborhood indicator. This is not a fatal problem and will disappear as residents become more familiar with and confident with the system.
South Korea’s new addressing system opens doors for much better governance, communications and business related opportunities. Do you do business in South Korea? Have you considered what opportunities are in the market? If you have any questions about how and why this will impact global business, please reach out to us. Global-Z can help.