Regionalization in Northeast Asia: Conceptions of economic cooperation and the Tumen River Area Development Programme (TRADP)

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Marwyn S. Samuels


Geography, International law, International relations, korea, china, border

Subject Categories



Regionalization theory, as exemplified by debates on the nature of trading blocs in the field of geography, has been of significance in recent discussions of world order. Regionalization, defined here as transnationalization on the regional level, has been promoted by the activities of transnational capital, in conjunction with public sphere, inter-state negotiations leading to the creation of formal institutions. Developed regional institutions, like the EU, have succeeded in utilizing the regionalizing trends in the private sphere to create the highest state of integration. In contrast, several states in Northeast Asia are striving for regional cooperation in the absence of such highly developed private sphere interactions. The "start from scratch" nature of this regionalization and the unique potential combination of North-NIC-South countries into one regional scheme make the study of the process of regionalization in Northeast Asia a challenging project. This study examines the conceptual aspects of Northeast Asian regionalization and their contribution to actual practices as represented by plans for the Tumen River Area Development Programme (TRADP). My finding is that conceptions of Northeast Asian regional cooperation have been suggested in large part as means of responding to domestic regional inequality, as well as inter-state inequality. The TRADP, as an outcome, can be understood as a reflection of inter-state negotiations mediated by local initiatives largely defined by local government and private business interests. Local initiatives and the prominence of the regional cooperation concepts make the case of Northeast Asian cooperation distinctive, potentially leading to a diluting of states' interests in the design of possibly more exclusionary regional amalgamations in which states continue to be the main actors. The TRADP also can be understood in light of a Sub-regional Economic Area (SREA) phenomenon, which involves cross-border development of neighboring territories. The landscape of SREAs in East Asia reflects the difficulty of creating larger-scale, region-wide cooperation. What this phenomenon suggests is a prospect that regionalization as developed in the Northeast Asian context will be conducive to globalization, rather than represent a resistance to it. This prospect is based on the speculation that SREAs have been working in the direction of open groupings. The TRADP, especially as read from its proposed master plans, is a good example in this respect.


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