The world can be perceived as a spectrum from core to periphery countries where high development levels, manufacturing systems, a capacity for innovation, and convergence of trade flows characterize core countries. The emergence of core countries is the outcome of a historical process of economic development that began in England and northern Europe during the industrial revolution in the 19th century. With industrialization and economic development, North America, Japan, and Australia became core areas of the world economy by the early 20th century. On the opposite, the periphery is composed of countries that have experienced more limited economic development, implying growing differences from the core.
The core has a level of dominance over the periphery, which is reflected in trade and the structure of transportation networks. Historically, this dominance was political through the incorporation of the periphery into colonial empires, but from the second half of the 20th century, economic factors became the key drivers. Accessibility is higher within the elements of the core than within the periphery. Most high-level economic activities and innovations are located in the core, with the periphery subjugated to processes conferring a lower added value, such as resource extraction and labor-intensive manufacturing.
This pattern was particularly prevalent during the colonial era, where the development of transport systems mainly favored the accessibility of core countries to the resources and markets of the periphery, a situation that endured until the 1960s and 1970s. The semi-periphery has a higher level of autonomy and has been the object of significant improvements in economic development (China, South Korea, Brazil, Malaysia, etc.). Concomitantly, the accessibility of the semi-periphery improved, permitting the integration of its comparative advantages in labor and resources. Thus, the core-periphery concept is dynamic as economic development incites the integration of economics into what can be considered the core. South Korea can now be considered a core economy, while Vietnam is clearly in the semi-periphery.