Northeast Asia is one of the most dynamic and diverse regions of the world. It contains one of the richest and most highly developed countries of the world, Japan, as well as some of the poorest and most backward areas in North Korea and rural China. It contains regions of extremely rapid growth in population, economic development, and industrial productivity: South Korea and Shanghai, for example. Millions are living in relative luxury; millions are near starvation. As the poorer regions strive to catch up to the more developed ones, the environment is often ignored or given only cursory attention. It often seems that national wealth is a prerequisite for pollution control. But in a region like Northeast Asia, where the rich live and work alongside the poor, all share the burden of environmental degradation. Increasingly, the need for regional cooperation in solving environmental problems becomes apparent. And none more so than with air pollution and acid rain, where the problems do not respect physical or geopolitical boundaries.
For the purposes of this paper, Northeast Asia is defined to include Japan, South Korea, North Korea, and Northeast China. It is inappropriate to include all of China in Northeast Asia, so a region called Northeast China has been established, bounded on the West by the provinces of Inner Mongolia (eastern half), Shanxi, Henan, Anhui, and Zhejiang. The major sources of emissions that influence the Korean peninsular and Japan are located within this part of China. Although Chinese sources outside this region also exert some influence, as do sources as far away as Southeast Asia under certain large-scale cyclonic wind patterns, their effects are generally small and diminish rapidly with distance.
The RAINS-Asia model is a comprehensive analytical tool constructed by an international team of experts and sponsored by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank . Its purpose is to trace the causes of acid deposition in Asia–from population, economic development, energy use, and emissions, through atmospheric transport and deposition, to effects on sensitive ecological receptor systems. The computer model covers 23 countries of Asia, including all countries east of Afghanistan. The entire region is disaggregated into 94 subregions, of which 24 are large metropolitan areas. The RAINS-Asia model provides the capability to examine the effects of alternative energy pathways and emission control strategies on emissions to the atmosphere, and it is this capability that is used in the present analysis to provide a quantitative framework within which to discuss the energy and emission issues facing Northeast Asia.