Sample Paper on Core Areas and Peripheral Regions of South Korea

Core Areas and Peripheral Regions of South Korea


This paper is a comprehensive focus on South Korea based on the understanding about core and periphery relationships models in Asian-Pacific rim nations. It expounds on the reasons that have seen particular core and periphery areas in South Korea grow and develop economically. In addition, it explains the opportunities and threats facing these regions in their efforts towards achieving their future goals.

The core-periphery model is chiefly based upon an unequal distribution of power in areas of economy, society and polity (Kim, 2007). The core is the dominating area or region; while on the other hand, peripheries tend to be dependent, isolated and underprivileged zones. It is very easy to distinguish between cores and peripheries based on vital economical factors.  Core and peripheries can be defined using economic, social, political, cultural and geographical characteristics (Eichengreen, 2006). Core areas are formed in areas offering favorable economical factors, in particular, superior infrastructure, an abundant endowment with vital resources, and good access to significant institutions and market (Kim, 2007). This means that, all factors supporting commerce and development are available in these regions.This core-periphery concepts or what may be referred to as ‘dominance-dependence syndrome’ inevitably determines the economic organization and exchange, and power distribution in a region.

Core areas and peripheral regions of South Korea

In the year 1955, the population count of South Korea were approximately 21.5 million, with 18% of the people living in the capital Seoul (South Korea 2015 Country Review, 2015). In the next 25 years, there was high population growth in the capital region compared to other parts of the country. By 1980, the population in the capital city had grown to 13.5 million, which was 36% of the entire country’s population. Majority of the peasants left their rural hometowns to seek better jobs in the Capital. In 1980’s, more than half of the entire economic production in South Korea took place in areas within the capital regions. The growth and development of Seoul extended to its surrounding provinces, Incheon and Gyeonggi, to form one broad region known as the Capital Region (CR). This region accounts for 11.8% of the entire country, and in 2012 it had a population of 25.7 million which about half of the people in the country (South Korea 2015 Country Review, 2015).

Fig 1: The core regions in South Korea.

In terms of economic geography, the capital Seoul and its environs (Capital region) constitute the ‘core’ of the country. The remainder part of the country forms the ‘periphery’. The core is considered the nerve center of the country where major economical activities take place. In addition, the core contain much of the country’s industry and urban population, acting as the vital hub of business, communication and transportation network, and acts as the main territory of the national government. The core region is thought to have better access to healthcare; adequate supply of basic human needs (food, water and shelter), better education institutions, and high wages compared to region in the periphery (Aydinli & Mathews, 2000). Industries, government institutions, financial systems, social elites, and education system are concentrated in the core region making peripheries deficient of important economical factors.

Conventionally, South Korea is divided into three main parts: the dominant North West region (greater region of Seoul); Prosperous, developed, conservative and politically favored southeast, and the underdeveloped, left-learning and disgruntled southwest. Economic advance in the country over the past years has begun shifting its ancient tripartite divisions.

Landscapes of contrast and challenge

Seoul is the wealthiest region in terms of per capita income, Ulsan is second and South Gyongsang (South East) is the third. Seoul is thought to be the financial and commerce hub in the country. Though the region covers only 0.6% of the area in South Korea, it generates 21% of the country’s GDP (South Korea 2015 Country Review, 2015). One of the regions that have boosted economical development of the region is the use of advanced technology in manufacturing industries. The main industries in this region includes; food and beverage, assembly and electronic and printing and publishing industries. The capital city is the headquarter of renown giant manufacturers such as; Samsung, Kia, Hyundai, SK and LG.

Though Ulsan and Daegu are found in Gyeonsang region, the amazing fact is that Ulsan produces 3.6 times more products and services than its immediate neighbor Daegue (Kim, 2007) does. Regional economic disparities in the two regions are quite evident. The huge economical gap between the two regions is found in the changing fortunes of the main industries. Ulsan acts as the ‘core’ region while Daegu acts as the ‘periphery’ that supports Ulsan development. The history indicates that Daegu thrived because of massive exportation of inexpensive fabric and clothing (Kim, 2007). However, increased competition from the international market resulted to decline in exportation of these commodities. This led to huge decline of economical power in the region. Ulsan, in contrary, prospered from exportation of transportation equipments including automobiles. Ulsan hosts giant manufactures such as, Hyundai, and other main economical facilities such as world’s largest shipyard, automobile factory, and oil refinery.


Because of the significant role that the core regions play, little disruption can threaten the stability of the whole country. The main challenge that the core area encounters is overpopulation, which stretches the available resources to the limit. Moreover, demand for housing, transportation and sanitation increases as a result of rapid demographic growth (Eichengreen, 2006). However, the pressure to some extend can be considered an opportunity for these regions to expand their innovation and technological capacity. In the bid to meet the increased demand in the core region, the government sets more funds to cater for more projects that are necessary to accommodate the increasing pressure (Aydinli & Mathews, 2000). In so doing, disproportionate growth is witnessed in the core region compared to the periphery regions. However, this disproportionate government investment in the core zones to meet the high demand and forestall chaos can lead to considerable unrest among population of the periphery.

Though the periphery exhibit positive development, it is normally characterized by high level of poverty, poor infrastructure and low standards of living (Mahutga, 2006). Health and education disparities are unavoidable with the existence of core-periphery model in the country. This is mainly because there are poor transportation systems, poor health and education facilities in the regions considered periphery.



The future of both core and periphery zone significantly depends on the government effort in allocation of development funding and creation of vital development policies. The periphery zones are expected to develop significantly as a result of vital development policies. In efforts to even the imbalance in the country, the government enacted national growth management policy and decentralization policies in 1982. These policies were meant to promote equitable development across the country and probably reduce environmental pollution, traffic congestion, and housing shortage.



Aydinli, E., & Mathews, J. (2000). Are the core and periphery irreconcilable? The curious world of publishing in contemporary international relations.International Studies Perspectives1(3), 289-303.

Eichengreen, B. (2006). China, Asia, and the world economy: The implications of an emerging Asian core and periphery. China and World Economy14(3), 1.

Kim, K. J. (2007). The Development of Modern South Korea: state formation, capitalist development and national identity. Routledge.

Mahutga, M. C. (2006). The persistence of structural inequality? A network analysis of international trade, 1965–2000. Social Forces84(4), 1863-1889.

South Korea 2015 Country Review. (2015). South Korea Country Review, 1-389.