Economy of Eastern Asia


The Japanese economy has long been a driving force behind the rapid economic development throughout East Asia. In line with increased competition from industrial manufacturing in China and South Korea, manufacturing in Japan has become increasingly focused on high-tech products. A specific feature of the Japanese trade union movement is the company-based unions.


Country Facts

State condition: Monarchy

Surface: 377,835 km2

Capital: Tokyo

Language: Japanese

Labor market and economy:

According to COUNTRYAAH, Japan is the world’s third largest economy and the world’s third largest exporter. From being one of the losing states in World War II, Japan has undergone astonishing economic development. The base of production has gradually shifted from heavy industry, such as shipyards and steel, to high and medium technology in areas such as electronics, computer technology and telecommunications.

An important explanation for the financial success is the conscious investment in education and research, both in the public sector and in companies. In economic policy, the state apparatus has an interventionist and governing role. It is hardly a free market that prevails, rather an economic system that is jointly controlled by the state apparatus and strong cartels. The Japanese economy has been an engine for the rapid economic development throughout East Asia. The economic success of the four “Asian tigers” – Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea – would not have been possible without the stimulus from Japanese capital.

The Japanese workforce consists of just over 65 million workers. Unemployment has long been around 5 percent. In recent decades, the structure of the workforce has changed. Due to low birth rates, there is a shortage of staff in several professions. This, in turn, has been one of the reasons why the proportion of women in paid work has increased.

The employment of Japan’s large industrial companies has traditionally been lifelong. A new trend is that the number of fixed-term jobs is increasing and that mobility in the labor market is increasing.


Mongolia is the world’s most sparsely populated country. Employment is dominated by agriculture, but for the country’s economy, the mining industry is more important. Trade union freedoms have gradually increased.


Country Facts

State condition: Republic

Surface: 1 564 116 km2

Capital: Ulaanbaatar

Language: 90 percent speak Mongolian, smaller groups speak Russian and Turkish

Labor market and economy:

Employment is dominated by the shepherd culture, with herds of sheep, goats, cows, camels and horses. Industry and mining are growing but still employ few people. The mining industry employs few people but accounts for 90 percent of the country’s export earnings. The country has large deposits of, among other things, copper, coal and gold and the government is investing heavily in expanding the mining industry. Sweden previously had extensive development cooperation with Mongolia, it is now reduced after Sida has concentrated aid on a smaller number of countries. The business exchange with Mongolia is small, but too many Swedish companies are establishing themselves in the country.


North Korea is one of the last communist dictatorships in the world. North Korea is also one of the world’s most isolated countries. The economic crisis is deep and the trade union movement is completely controlled by the state.

North Korea

Country Facts

State condition: People’s Republic, in reality dictatorship

Surface: 120,540 km2

Capital: Pyongyang

Language: Korean

Labor market and economy:

North Korea maintains a state-controlled planned economy. The state owns all large companies, but a large part of agriculture is run in cooperative form. In the last decade, the harvest has not always been so good and large sections of the population have suffered from famine. To improve the state’s income, the country has opened special economic free zones where foreign companies can establish themselves. The economy in these zones is completely different from the country’s economy in general. The state has also encouraged North Koreans to work abroad as migrant workers. It has also been a profitable business for the state, which has charged large fees for the opportunity to work abroad.

A basic idea in the economy is that as much as possible should be produced within the country and that only advanced technology should be imported. In line with this, the country has developed its own production of locomotives, buses, trucks, tractors and machine tools.


South Korea is a successful industrial country. The economy is characterized by large companies, especially in the shipyards, automotive and electronics industries. The government is authoritarian and anti-union. At the same time, the trade unions are large and they are explicitly protesting against the policies pursued. In recent years, contradictions between the government and the trade unions have intensified.

South Korea

Country Facts

State condition: Republic

Surface: 98,400 km2

Capital: Seoul

Language: Korean

Labor market and economy:

The South Korean economic miracle has been based on an interventionist state apparatus. Through favorable loans and a protectionist trade policy, the state no longer favored the big Korean corporations. The big companies like Hyundai, KIA-Motors, Deawoo, Goldstar and Samsung made huge profits over a series of years. The basis for the union awakening was that the employees demanded a larger share of the profits. When new union representatives demanded proper pay rises, large groups of employees quickly closed up.