Local governments are divided into high-level and low-level local governments. With the inclusion of the Sejong Special Self-Governing City in July 2012, the number of high-level local governments increased to 17 (i.e. Seoul Special City, six metropolises, eight provinces, and Jeju Special Self-Governing Province). The number of low-level local governments stands at 226 (75 cities (si), 82 counties (gun), and 69 districts (gu)).

Local government heads and local council members are elected by direct popular vote for a four-year term. The head of the local government can be reelected for up to three terms. There is no limit on how many terms a local councilor may serve. The local autonomous system is very significant as a means of realizing the goal of grassroots democracy through local residents’ participation.