November 1, 2010｜Korean Peninsula
Kwon Se Eun
President, Institute for Global Affairs, Kyung Hee University
Amid such epochal changes as the collapse of the socialist bloc, the end of the Cold War, and the economic development of Asia, in and around the 1990s, East Asia, while being linked to the de-modern discourse, has emerged as a discourse transcending reality. Basically, this “East Asia” discourse started out from western Orientalism. In a dichotomous construct, it posits East Asia as a device for the surmounting of Western civilization, the creation of a third civilization, and a device for the surmounting of the modern era. In other words, East Asia has been understood as a construct of conflict between West and East. Here, East Asia in its entirety has been given a single identity, and the thinking is preeminent that western modernity must be surmounted. In East Asia, however, where the West has been internalized, and where conflict and competition, subordination and being subordinated are mixed together, the declarative discourse which has been hardened in this manner is the issue that must be surmounted.
It is possible to posit that a great number of East Asias are included in the categorizing of multiple reciprocal relationships in a specific space. From the region–nation–locality dimension, the categorization of the formed intermediate reciprocal relationships forms a great number of Asias, including the Yellow-Sea rim subregion, the East-Sea rim (Japan-Sea rim) subregion, the continental subregion, and the maritime subregion. This categorizing is a variable, fluid space, and with the space they geographically call East Asia an intermediate fluid space formed at all levels, including civilization, race, religion, culture, physical distribution, and movements of population, it is possible to divide them up in various ways. Research relating to the existing East Asia was an activity to uncover regional commonalities, such as to seek common or analogous characteristics or to grasp East Asia’s inherent identity. Regional research, however, is an activity to gain an understanding of the formation of reciprocal relationships of functions and diverse policymakers in the range where given central functions reach. That is because, beginning here, we are able to understand the new changes in the complex order that has been formed within East Asia, surmounting the East Asia discussion of a single East Asia. The reciprocal relationships of the East-Sea rim (Japan-Sea rim) subregion that is formed centered on the East-Sea (Japan-Sea) have been in the middle of being newly formed from the second half of the twentieth century, and are also a theme that should be newly acknowledged at the same time.
Whether we acknowledge it or not, this region is a place where the modern and de-modern and the Cold War and de-Cold War exist in combination, and, realistically, the geopolitical and land-border policies of the nations within the region have been developed in complex fashion. It is a place where, changing dynamically, diverse policymakers undertake communication. Regarding the East-Sea rim (Japan-Sea rim) region geographically, from the de-Cold War on, amid the dynamic changes visible in the regional order, including China’s economic development and Russia’s move to capitalism, the geopolitical dynamic relations which encompass the East-Sea (Japan-Sea) are actively achieving a transfiguration, whereas such changes in this region are simultaneously demanding, with a national viewpoint a given, a supranational vision and a local regional perspective.
In conclusion, a re-acknowledgement is necessary of the ecology of the East-Sea rim (Japan-Sea rim) from the global dimension, and currently the East-Sea rim (Japan-Sea rim) region is moving out of a uniform modern developmentalism centered on economics, and is in a period of transition moving toward a post-modern ecological awareness putting the ecological environment and human livelihoods in harmony. I think that a fundamental re-acknowledgement is necessary now of the natural and human environments of the East-Sea rim (Japan-Sea rim) region and the reciprocal relationships in politics, economics, society, and culture.
[Translated by ERINA]