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Once called the "Far East" or the "Mysterious Orient" by Europeans and Americans, Eastern Asia is now often referred to as the Western Pacific Rim, in contrast to the Eastern Pacific Rim, which is comprised of the west coasts of North and South America.

Eastern Asia has vast populations, vast tracts of land, rich natural resources, and a huge industrial capacity. Japan and Taiwan have two of the world's largest and most dynamic economies, superstars in the world market. Geographically closer than they realize (note Alaska in the upper right corner near Russia), Eastern Asia and the United States have often engaged politically and militarily during the twentieth century: the United States gained political control of the Philippines; Japan and the United States fought over the Pacific during World War II; and the United States fought against North Vietnam during the Vietnam War.

In the midst of Eastern Asia lies Korea, a land of advanced culture and great art. Populated by a single, homogeneous ethnic group and unified for over 1500 years, Korea was artificially divided in two at the end of World War II. For the last 50 years, North Korea and South Korea have gone their separate ways. Yet the two Koreas have much in common: the same people, the same language and cultural history, as well as a similar climate, geography, and similar natural resources. Fifty years is not really a long time, barely a generation. The strong commonalities that the two nations started with suggest that they should not be too dissimilar today.

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