This contribution to the Special Issue on Impact Assessment for the 21st Century invites readers to consider how recent East Asian developments concerning impact assessment (IA) may shape future IA policy and practice. It discusses the role that IA is playing and will continue to play in the rapid socio-economic development of the East Asian region. This letter surveys the region's current IA foci from a culturally sensitive lens, paying particular attention to South Korea, China and Japan. It suggests what the region's future focus and contributions to IA for 'desirable futures' are likely to be, based on current practice. Three central factors in the future of IA in the 21st century are prevalent from an East Asian vantage point: the influence of culture, the centrality of policymaking and the increase in public participation.