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Yellow Sea Rim and Japan Sea Rim areas

North-East Asia can be divided into two distinctive subregions: the Yellow Sea Rim and the Japan Sea (East Sea) Rim regions, as shown in figure 14.1. Compared with the Japan Sea Rim area, where urban and industrial development is lagging, the Yellow Sea Rim is relatively well endowed with quality labour resources and industrial infrastructure. In terms of industrial structure, the Yellow Sea Rim reveals a mixture of resource-oriented and market-oriented activities, whereas the Japan Sea coastal areas are heavily resource oriented. Major industrial bases in China and Korea are also located along the Yellow Sea Rim, adding to the importance of this region in the national economies of both countries (Kim, 1991b).

In contrast, there are few urban centres that act as trading and managerial hubs in the Japan Sea Rim area, although the countries around the Japan Sea have recently been preparing ambitious plans, including the development of urban centres with infrastructural facilities (Vladivostok in Russia, Hunchun in China, Niigata and other medium-sized cities in Japan, the Chongjin-Najin-Seonbong conurbation in North Korea, and Pohang in South Korea). The Japan Sea region has been treated by Japan as its backyard compared with the Tokaido megalopolis and has never been highlighted in the mainstream of Japanese history. Likewise, Korea's east coast has been ridiculed as "the land of potatoes and rocks," which symbolizes severe poverty and a lack of arable land. North Korea's east coast was historically a place of political exile and is cut off by rugged mountains from the heart of the country.

Fig. 14.1 The Yellow Sea Rim and the East Sea Rim

China's north-eastern region wants to have a gateway to the Japan Sea through the Tumen River and the development of Hunchun as an entrepôt. Infrastructure development in the Russian Far East, north-east China, the east coast of the Korean peninsula, and the west coast of the Japanese archipelago lags far behind that in the Yellow Sea Rim area and thus poses a serious obstacle to integrated rimland development. However, the regions are preparing to take advantage of a newly evolving dynamics of North-East Asia.

Informal exchanges between South Korea and China have been gaining momentum since the Asian games in 1990. It was reported that about 30,000 South Korean tourists visited China in 1990. Ferries for passengers and cars are already running between Pusan and Shimonoseki and between Yosu and Fukuoka to accommodate increasing demand for passenger traffic between South Korea and Japan across the Korea Strait. Cargo shipping routes between major ports in South Korea (Pusan, Pohang, Ulsan) and Japanese (Kitakyushu, Niigata, Muroran) and Soviet ports (Vladivostok, Nakhodka, Vostochny) are becoming some of the busiest in the world. With the growth of cargo and passenger traffic they will become even more congested.

The accord between South and North Korea has given momentum to the flow of information and commodities. It was reported that the Korean government was going to raise the issue of reopening the disconnected railroad line between Seoul and Pyongyang at the 48th meeting of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in 1992 in Beijing. Although the agenda would not be formally discussed until North Korea became a member of ESCAP, the reopening of the Seoul-Pyongyang railroad seems only a matter of time. If it goes well, it will certainly facilitate passenger and freight movement between five countries, including the two Koreas, China, Russia, and Mongolia. It will eventually become a land bridge for Japan to reach the Trans-Siberian and the Trans-China railroads. However, it has not yet been realized because of a strained relationship between the two Koreas concerning the issue of the non-proliferation treaty over the North Korean nuclear reactor.

Since the western end of the Lanzhou-Xinjiang railroad in China was connected to the Soviet railroad at Ala pass in 1990, another Euro-Asian continental bridge of 10,800 km (Trans-China railroad, TCR), in addition to the existing Trans-Siberian Railway of 13,000 km from Nakhodka in the east to Brest in the west, has been opened to traffic. In recent years, owing to the rapid economic development of the Asia-Pacific region, trade with Europe has quadrupled for Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. The reopening of the Seoul-Pyongyang railroad line and the TCR will reinforce the existing spatial agglomeration along the corridor extending from Tokyo to Beijing through Pusan, Seoul, and Pyongyang in the Korean peninsula.

Table 14.4 Air passenger traffic from Seoul, 1980-1989 ('000 passengers)

Route 1980 1982 1984 1986 1988 1989 (B)/(A)
(A)         (B)
Seoul-Tokyo 807 661 808 690 937 1,433 1.8
Seoul-Osaka 409 371 388 441 507 699 1.7
Seoul-Fukuoka 135 133 164 160 209 235 1.7
Seoul-Nagoya 92 84 86 109 165 238 2.6
  1,443 1,249 1,446 1,400 1,818 2,605 1.8
Seoul-Taipei 187 249 303 334 440 497 2.7
Seoul-Hong Kong 190 211 211 333 415 438 2.3
Seoul-Bangkok 48 87 124 76 97 134 2.8
Seoul-Manila 43 59 45 69 102 111 2.6
Seoul-Kuala Lumpur 1 11 20 25 20 21 21.0
Seoul-Singapore 12 21 36 69 70 81 6.8
Total 1,924 1,887 2,185 2,306 2,962 3,887 2.0

Source: Bureau of Aviation, Ministry of Transportation, Republic of Korea, 1990.

People in North-East Asia have found themselves living in a global age, in the sense that countries are increasingly interdependent and are diversifying their roles in a global society. The explosive growth in the volume of international trade and tourism and the broadcasts of television networks such as CNN of America and NHK of Japan in the late 1980s are accelerating the globalization of Asian countries, especially the countries in North-East Asia. An important indicator of this trend is the increase in air passenger traffic. As shown in table 14.4, the number of air passengers in the region originating from Seoul doubled between 1980 and 1989. The increasing trend is most visible between Seoul and the South-East Asian cities, and trip distance is becoming much greater than before.

Another indicator of the space-time collapse in the Asia-Pacific region is the flow of information. Because it is not easy either to measure the volume of information flows or to trace their pattern, and statistics are not readily available, the volume of international telephone calls is used as a proxy of information flows (Yoon and Lee, 1990). Table 14.5 shows how rapidly information flow is taking place between Seoul and other Asian mega-cities, although city-specific data are not available. There are many reasons to assume that mega-cities are information hubs in their respective countries. During the 1980s the volume of international telephone calls had increased 14 times between Seoul and Japan and 54 times between Seoul and Thailand. The heaviest flow was between Seoul and Japan, followed by Seoul-Hong Kong and Seoul-Taiwan. Table 14.6 lists the five most frequently called countries in the countries of the Asia-Pacific region. It is a strong indication that there are invisible flows of ideas and information among the countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Only the United States is an exception as the most frequently called country in Japan, Thailand, and the Philippines. Japan is dominant as a centre of information flows as it is the most frequently called country for Korea, Taiwan, and Malaysia.

Table 14.5 International telephone calls (in and out) between Seoul and other Asian countries, 1980-1989 ('000 calls)

  1980 1982 1984 1986 1988 1989 (B)/(A)
(A)         (B)
Seoul-Japan 3,463 4,444 7,645 16,168 32,248 48,366 14.0
Seoul-Hong Kong 241 448 746 2,005 5,648 7,707 32.0
Seoul-Taiwan 115 183 302 794 2,018 2,893 25.2
Seoul-Philippines 27 44 70 140 325 633 23.4
Seoul-Singapore 64 153 367 537 1,568 2,292 35.8
Seoul-Thailand 14 27 43 117 417 761 54.4
Seoul-Indonesia 20 42 96 168 481 964 48.2
Seoul-Malaysia - 50 94 214 438 632 -
Total 3,944 5,391 9,363 20,143 43,143 64,248 16.3

Source: Korea Telecommunication Corporation Yearbook, 1990.

International labour migration is tending to increase within Asia because of uneven economic growth and wage and unemployment differences. Labour shortages have appeared in Japan, Korea, and Malaysia. As structural changes in Asian economies and labour markets continue, cross-national labour migration in North-East Asia will surely be on the rise in the years to come, especially among the countries that have strong ethnic links and do not pose great language difficulties. Korean-Chinese mainly living in north and northeastern China are returning to their homeland as visitors and are quite visible in the menial labour market in South Korea. Although South Korea receives labourers from China and the Philippines, it also sends young female workers to Japan. The North-East Asian region is an important integral part of the whole Asia-Pacific region, and is becoming a dynamic region with great potential in the world economy.

Table 14.6 The countries most frequently called by the countries of the Asia-Pacific region, 1985 (%)


Countries most frequently called

1 2 3 4 5 USA
Japan 13.2 11.4 8.6 5.1 1.6 25.7
  Korea Taiwan HK Sing Indo  
Korea 37.0 4.2 1.6 1.5   32.6
  Japan HK Taiwan Sing -  
Taiwan 33.2 33.1 4.4 1.8 1.8 24.0
  Japan HK Sing Phil Korea  
Hong Kong 17.6 12.3 9.6 5.2 3.8 8.9
  China Taiwan Japan Sing Phil  
Thailand 15.3 14.0 10.6 4.0 3.7 17.9
  Japan Sing HK Malay Taiwan  
Malaysia 16.8 11.6 9.6 7.1 4.9 7.2
  Japan HK Thai Taiwan Indo  
Indonesia 39.4 15.8 8.3 3.8 2.4 8.0
  Sing Japan HK Taiwan Malay  
Philippines 10.7 9.8 3.8 3.2   49.5
  Japan HK Sing Taiwan -  
Singapore 16.0 14.6 12.4 5.5 4.4 9.1
  Indo Japan HK Taiwan Thai  

Source: AT & T. The World Telephone, 1988.

Abbreviations: HK - Hong Kong; Sing - Singapore; Indo - Indonesia, Phil - Philippines; Thai Thailand; Malay - Malaysia.

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