Since the mid-19th century, the three countries of Korea, China, and Japan have overcome challenges that threaten their national survival in unique ways, and have grown into countries that attract attention in the international community. As of 2021, these three countries are among the richest and most powerful countries in the world. In terms of economic strength, which is the most important indicator of national power, South Korea, China, and Japan ranked 10th, 2nd, and 3rd in the world in terms of gross domestic product (GDP), respectively, based on International Monetary Fund (IMF) statistics last year. . In terms of military power, South Korea, China, and Japan are ranked 6th, 3rd, and 5th in the world, respectively, based on the GFP (Global Firepower) World Military Power Index. Even though South Korea is the smallest of the three countries and has the smallest population, it has the national power of one of the Group of Seven (G7) countries.
The American current affairs magazine US News & World Report ranked South Korea's national power this year as 8th in the world, higher than G7 countries Italy and Canada. In addition to hard power such as economic power and military power, the soft power symbolized by the Korean Wave has also reached world standards. The influence of East Asia, which includes the three countries of Japan, China, and South Korea, is seen to exceed that of North America, which includes the United States and Canada, and Europe, which includes Russia, Germany, and France.
China, China and South Korea are located on the eastern edge of the Eurasian continent and have had political, economic, social, and cultural exchanges since ancient times. They have lived together as close neighbors for thousands of years. Although the three countries have different ethnic groups and languages, at first glance they look similar and have some similarities in food and traditional clothing. For example, China, China, and South Korea adopted kanji that originated in the middle reaches of the Yellow River and developed them to suit their respective language environments, fostering diversity even within commonalities. Although there were times when they experienced conflicts such as wars, the period of peaceful exchange and trade was overwhelmingly long.
The country that has maintained leadership in East Asia for the longest time is China. In terms of land area and population size, it exceeds the Korean Peninsula and the Japanese archipelago. Even before the early modern period, China's culture, science and technology standards were superior to those of Korea and Japan. Pre-modern Korea and Japan received many cultural artifacts, technologies, and systems from China. The relationship between the three countries, dominated by China, was reversed in the modern era. Japan succeeded in modernizing through the Meiji Restoration, but Korea closed its doors, refused to interact with the outside world, and followed the path of extinction. After liberation in 1945, South Korea experienced division and war, and fell to the world's poorest country.
China, too, has experienced ups and downs in the wave of modernization. China was defeated in the Opium War of 1840, thwarting even its attempts at modernization, and handing control of East Asia to Japan. After winning wars with China in 1895 and Russia in 1905, Japan succeeded in seizing control of East Asia, going so far as to occupy the Korean Peninsula and parts of China. In modern times, the three countries of East Asia have developed rapidly. As a result of rapid economic growth that began in the 1960s, South Korea has developed into a G7-level nation economically, militarily, and culturally. After Japan's defeat in World War II, the country recovered from the Korean War in 1950, and by 2009 enjoyed the status of the world's second largest economy. China, which has risen rapidly since the 1990s, will overturn Japan's economic power in 2010 and once again take the lead in East Asia.
Since the 1990s, when China's economy began to develop rapidly, trade, investment, and people-to-people exchanges between South Korea, China, and Japan have increased faster than any other region in the world. Exchanges between future generations, such as international students, have also increased markedly. As a result, exchanges between the three countries were extremely active before the coronavirus pandemic. In 2019, the scale of Korea-China, Korea-Japan, and Japan-China trade was 240 billion dollars (approximately 287,664 billion won), 76 billion dollars (approximately 91,936 billion won), and 310 billion dollars (approximately 371,566 billion won), respectively. Won) was reached. The number of flights between Korea-China, Korea-Japan, and Japan-China flights was 140,000, 110,000, and 150,000, respectively, and the scale of people-to-people exchanges reached 9 million, 7.6 million, and 11 million, respectively (2018 year standard). Even in the midst of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, East Asia remains the world's most active region for trade.
Compared to the frequency of people and material exchanges, the degree of political closeness between Japan, China, and South Korea is relatively low. In order to overcome this problem, the leaders of the three countries established the Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat (TCS) in September 2011 to solidify peace and common prosperity in East Asia. This was an effort to systematically promote cooperation between Japan, China, and South Korea beyond the trilateral summit meetings that had been held regularly. TCS is an international organization that aims to bring about lasting peace and realize the vision of shared prosperity between Japan, China, and South Korea, which have long experienced painful conflicts and wars with countries both within and outside the region.
Since the establishment of TCS, political, economic, and social and cultural exchanges between Japan, China, and Korea have become more active. However, as a result of rising nationalism in all three countries, various forms of mutual hostility have recently emerged. TCS worked hard to solve these problems. A major project currently being envisioned by TCS is the Northeast Asia Ring Railway & Expressway Initiative, which connects South Korea, Japan, and China through an undersea tunnel in the Korean Strait (Tsushima Strait) and the Yellow Sea. "is. If this concept becomes a reality, citizens of Japan, China and South Korea will be able to travel by car or high-speed train through the Japan-Korea/Korea-China Undersea Tunnel within 12 hours to reach Seoul and Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province, Tokyo and Kyoto in Japan, and Beijing and Xi'an in China. can be visited. It is hoped that political, economic, social and cultural exchanges between the three countries will be promoted, and mutual understanding and affinity between the peoples of each country will further increase.
We hope that TCS, the Japan-China-Korea cooperation secretariat, will play a role similar to the secretariat of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), which contributed to the common prosperity of Western Europe.
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