Author Archives: Matt Stiles

I'm a data journalist at The Wall Street Journal. Let me know if you have ideas for future visualizations. Contact me: mattstiles at gmail.

South Korean Women (Especially Young Women) Fear Crime More Than Men

The recent murder of a young woman in Seoul’s Gangnam district has prompted discussion about the treatment of women in South Korean society, including lingering gender inequalityharassment and even physical violence.

Perhaps that concern — expressed anecdotally in media stories about the crime and the angry public response it provoked — could help explain why women and men here view the threat of crime differently.

A national government survey two years ago asked about a variety of societal issues, including the “main cause” of South Koreans’ anxiety. About one in five said their chief concern was crime. But there’s a real split by gender on that question, according to the survey, released by the Korean Statistical Information Service:


American women, it should be noted, have generally reported more anxiety about crime than men (largely because of the fear of sexual assault, which drives concern about burglary, dark alleys, etc), according to research compiled by the Department of Justice. One study asking whether Chicago residents were “afraid to go out” at night, for example, showed a similar gender split.

The difference on crime in South Korea is especially evident among young women, which is sad but not too surprising (school-age youths and young adults in the U.S. report the higher levels of fear of crime than other age groups, though they’re least likely to act to mitigate it):


“When Should You Start Worrying About the Polls? Not Quite Yet”

Since Donald Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee, several national polls have shown him narrowing the gap with his likely opponent, Hillary Clinton, or even leading. But the election is more than five months away. When should you start to care about polls? With some caveats, we believe the answer is: not quite yet.

Read more at:

Charting Murder Rates in the United States, South Korea

Note: My family last year relocated to Seoul, where my wife is working as a foreign correspondent for NPR. This post is part of an occasional series profiling the peninsula’s demographics and politics.

Among the many benefits of living in South Korea is its relative safety. Crime, it seems, is low — even in Seoul.

But a particularly heinous crime recently — the slaying of a young woman in Seoul’s trendy Gangnam district — has rocked the country and got me thinking again about crime here. How common, for example, is murder?

More common than I thought, it turns out. There were more than 900 murders in South Korea during 2014, the most recent data available from the Korean Statistical Information Service.

Compare that with about 14,000 murder cases during the same year in the United States, which obviously has a much larger population. This chart shows the murder rate in both countries per 100,000 population (with a line for Seoul, too).

Despite the high-profile recent case in Seoul, murder remains much less common here:


Mapping South Korea’s Foreigners

Note: My family last year relocated to Seoul, where my wife is working as a foreign correspondent for NPR. This post is part of an occasional series profiling the peninsula’s demographics and politics.

This week I looked at the population of foreign residents in South Korea, charting national origin and geographic distribution around the country. But if you don’t live here (and even if you do) that geography can be quite difficult to absorb without maps.

So, after a year of procrastination, I finally got the courage to tackle the detailed census and geography files from the Korean Statistical Information Service (you try loading Hangul characters in a database!). And then I made some maps, plotting the number of foreigners per 1,000 total residents — by Seoul neighborhood, county/municipality and province.

First, the capital city. Seoul is home to about 9.7 million residents within its city limits, and it’s obviously the center of political and economic activity in South Korea, giving it a relatively high proportion of foreigners. Seoul is roughly the size of Chicago (230 square miles), and has about 17 foreigners per 1,000 residents.

My neighborhood, Hangangno-dong, is the red highlighted polygon in the center. It’s a single square mile, and it has about 48 foreigners per 1,000 residents. Here’s the map:


South Korea has 16 provinces and major cities that are grouped together administratively, like America’s states. Seoul and adjacent Gyeonggi province, the nation’s most-populous state, have the highest proportions of foreign residents. Here’s the map:


South Korea also has some 250 smaller administrative areas — call them municipalities, or townships, or mid-size cities — that are essentially like counties in America. Here’s that map (again, Seoul is highlighted). The dark purple area south of Seoul is Jincheon County, a relatively small community (60,000 residents) known for its agriculture. The dark area in the far south is Yeongam County, which has roughly the same population. But it’s home to a big Hyundai heavy industries plant. Perhaps a high proportion of foreigners (many from southeast Asia work in factories) live in these areas for work.korea-foreigners-munis-small

Making these maps was good practice for familiarizing myself with Korean geography and demographics, but they aren’t super useful for foreigners without more labeling, annotation and context (and perhaps background features). Next time…

Notes: The data reflect the 2010 census, the latest available at all geography levels. As I mentioned, making sense of mapping files here is tough. A huge thanks to these fine folks for making it easier.

South Korea’s Foreigners, Over Time

Note: My family last year relocated to Seoul, where my wife is working as a foreign correspondent for NPR. This post is part of an occasional series profiling the peninsula’s demographics and politics.

Yesterday we looked a the most-recent data on foreign residents in South Korea, breaking down their home countries and new locations.

But how has this changed over time?

Unfortunately, we don’t have longitudinal data on foreigners’ counties. But we can show the proportion of foreigners in Korea’s major geographic administrative units — its provinces and autonomous large cities. And with the added dimension of time, you can notice major changes in the last two decades.

The capital city, Seoul, for example, now only has about a quarter of the country’s foreigners, according to data released by the Korean Statistical Information Service. That’s down from 52 percent in 1992. Many appear to be settling in Gyeonggi-do, the nation’s most-populous province (it surrounds Seoul).


Here’s a stacked area chart (mobile users see table below) showing the trend:



Adding gender shows some slight differences, especially that Seoul has about 30 percent of female foreigners, compared with 20 percent of their male counterparts.



Mobile users, apologies. I’m hoping to launch a new site soon with responsive data tools. Until then, I’ll try to add tables and other accessible graphics for quick posts like this. Not perfect, I know, but it’s slightly less of a fail:


Larger, interactive versions here: All | Gender | Table.

Where are South Korea’s Foreigners From?

Separating foreigners from the locals at a recent street festival celebrating Buddha's birthday. Matt Stiles/The Daily Viz

Separating foreigners from the locals at a recent street festival celebrating Buddha’s birthday.

Note: My family last year relocated to Seoul, where my wife is working as a foreign correspondent for NPR. This post is part of an occasional series profiling the peninsula’s demographics and politics.

I had to move across the globe, but I’ve finally cracked The One Percent.

Not in wealth, of course. But I am one of about 24,000 civilian Americans living in South Korea, population 50.2 million. So that means I’m quite seriously in the minority. In my central Seoul district, for example, there are about 1,500 registered* Americans** — among 200,000 residents overall.

The country has just over a million registered residents from other countries, most of them from Asia. How does that foreign population break down by country, gender and province? These three treemaps help explain the distribution (mobile users, skip to the bottom of this post):

The foreign population here skews slightly male, perhaps because of the influx of Southeast Asian factory workers. In some parts of the country, however, the population skews the other way. In Seoul, for example, women from several countries — Indonesia being one — are more evenly distributed compared to the countryside, perhaps because city dwellers are more likely to hire domestic workers. Here’s a breakdown by gender and country (click the image for a larger view):


China, by far, sends the most foreigners to South Korea. That’s true for Han Chinese, but also residents who are the decedents of Koreans who at some point received Chinese citizenship. (The Korean peninsula shares a 800-mile border with China). The United States, to my surprise, if pretty far down the list of countries represented by foreign residents here.


The largest proportion of foreigners reside in Gyeonggi province, the country’s most populous state, following closely by Seoul. Together they represent close to half the country’s population — and most of its foreigners. But we are sprinkled throughout the country:


Larger, interactive versions of these treemaps, sketches in Tableau Public, can be viewed here: Gender | Country | Province.

They aren’t great on mobile, however. So here are two tables.





* The data come from an official source: The Korean Statistical Information Service. But it’s unclear what “registered” foreigners means — it’s not included in the metadata — and some foreigner totals differ.

** I live across the street from Yongsan Garrison, headquarters to the roughly 28,000 American forces stationed around the country. The troops there obviously aren’t included in South Korea’s immigration figures.

“Who is Older and Younger than You”

I’m officially older than most people. How about you?

Everyone seems old when you’re a kid. People tower over you and do things you can’t even fathom, like walk on just your feet. In high school, elementary school students look like babies, and college kids seem way more mature than they actually are.

Read more at: