How China’s Economic Retaliation Hurt the South Korean Tourism Industry

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Economy & Finance, Social Media

I wrote this week about the one-year anniversary of China’s economic retaliation against South Korea over the THAAD missile system, a defensive weapon designed to stop North Korea’s medium-range missiles.

China objects to it and has been flexing its economic muscle in protest, carrying out an aggressive campaign of economic retaliation that includes sending fewer tourists. In 2017, just over 4 million Chinese visited South Korea, down from roughly 8 million a year earlier after several years of steady growth.

These charts show the effect on the South Korean tourism industry, which has grown to depend heavily on China. This first example helps show China’s increasing share among all tourists who visit South Korea. In 2016, for example, nearly half of all visitors were Chinese — way up from a decade ago:

This chart reflects the annual total visitors by Chinese since 2000. Until last year, annual growth had average nearly 30%, even with the 2015 MERS outbreak in South Korea, which caused hundreds of thousands — likely millions — of Chinese to stay away. You can see how the figure dropped dramatically in 2017:

And, finally, we look at the monthly data, which spikes during peak summer months. The effect of MERS is again evident, as is the significant drop in tourists after the Chinese implemented travel restrictions last March:

It’s Been a Hot Summer, Down Under

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Weather

My family is vacationing this week in Mosman, Australia, a harbourside Sydney suburb near Balmoral Beach known for its family friendly attractions and boutique shops.

This place is a great holiday spot. There’s only one problem this year, though: It’s been quite hot.

Sydney is normally relatively temperate during the summers, which occur opposite winters in the Northern Hemisphere. The average temperature in Celsius this time of year usually runs in the 25-degree range, or around 80 Fahrenheit. Today, though, was 35 degrees, or roughly 95 Fahrenheit.

Have I mentioned that our vacation home doesn’t have air conditioning?

We’ll somehow survive, but the heat did prompt me to scrape some weather data.

During the last month Sydney has experienced severe heat spikes, some of them eclipsing records and even fueling wildfires. Last January, typically the hottest month here, there was a similar pattern.

This chart shows the year in temperatures. The color bars show the range of each day’s highs and lows. The black step lines show historical averages. And the gray line shows the record highs.

Chart: If Ousted, Jeff Sessions Would Have a Historically Short Tenure

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Policy & Politics

If President Trump decides after all to replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was approved just 166 days ago, the former Alabama senator would have one of the shortest tenures in history.

More than 80 Americans have been the nation’s top law enforcement officer as cabinet members, rather than acting placeholders. That list includes 39 Republicans and 30 Democrats. Another 13 attorneys general from other parties (Whig, Federalist, etc.) have also held the office.

The average tenure has been about 978 days — or roughly 2.5 years. Now it appears Sessions could get ousted after less than a half year.

Only two others have served shorter terms. One, Elliot Richardson, resigned in protest while serving under Richard Nixon during Watergate. The other, Edwin Stanton, took office in the tumultuous months before Abraham Lincoln became president.

Here’s the list, sorted from longest-to-shortest tenure:

Charting North Korean Provocations. A Case of ‘The Mondays’?

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: South Korea

As a newspaper reporter living in South Korea, I’m always aware that a “provocation” by our friends in the North — a missile launch, a nuclear test, or some other incident — could occur on any day.

A recent missile launch came on a Sunday morning, for example, disrupting our family plans. (That’s part of the job, of course).

But which days have been more likely for provocations, I wondered? Thanks to a handy database from the Center for Strategic & International Studies, we now know.

Since 2001, North Korean leaders seem to prefer … Mondays?

The trend is clear in the data: Compared with any other day, provocations have been twice as common on the first work day of the week.

The data also reveal some interesting tidbits about the North’s provocations. Thanks to a recent surge in missile tests, the number of provocations has increased substantially under the new leader, Kim Jong Un, who took power in late December 2011 after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il:

The Center categorizes the provocations by type, too (though I broke our “exchange of fire” incidents from “Other” in the data):

And here you can see the interest in missile tests. Roughly half of all provocations since 2001 have been missile launches or tests (again, propelled in part by Kim Jong Un’s recent interest):

You can explore the Center’s great work here.

Charting Taiwan’s Low Birth Rate, Aging Population

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Demographics

I’m in Taiwan this month to study Mandarin. During breaks, I’ll be posting occasionally about the island nation’s demographics, politics and (sticky) weather.

Like other East Asian democracies, such as South Korea and Japan, Taiwan has a rapidly aging population, posing demographic and economic challenges for policy makers.

One reason for the age increase is that Taiwan has among the lowest birth rates in the world. These charts highlight the trend.

Editing O.J. Simpson: Charting Changes to His Wikipedia Page

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Crime, Sports

I’ve just finished watching ESPN’s fabulous O.J.: Made in America, a five-part documentary about the Hall of Fame football player.

Somewhere in the process of digesting this latest — and, perhaps, best — telling of O.J.’s story, I scoured Wikipedia for details about his life. I discovered that the page has been edited more than 4,000 times since it went up in 2003, back when Wikipedia user “Vera Cruz” posted the first biographical snippet.

Since then, users have slowly edited — and vandalized — the current bio’s 5,000 words, a process I’ve charted below.

Charting U.K. Immigration by Country

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Demographics

Outsiders, like me, who are trying to understand how much immigration is driving the “Brexit” debate about the European Union might consider this fact: Britons are much more likely today to encounter people born in another country — both inside and outside Europe — than they were a decade ago.

In 2014, about 1 in 8 people residents were born outside the U.K. — up from about 1 in 11 a decade earlier, according to government statistics.

Air Quality in Seoul, China, U.S.

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: South Korea

The view from our apartment in Seoul. Some days are better than others.

The view from our apartment in Seoul. Some days are better than others.

The air quality in Seoul — a mega city home to 70,000 taxis and 10 million residents — can get rough at times, especially for people already sensitive to pollution. It’s been an adjustment for my family, though it could be worse.

We could live in Beijing or Shanghai.

This chart, from a recent work collaboration with my wife, shows the number of days in 2015 that the pollutant PM2.5 reached certain health thresholds in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s air quality index. It compares Seoul to Beijing and Shanghai in China and New York and Los Angeles in the U.S.

Seoul isn’t terrible — but it isn’t great, either:


Sanders Strongest in Educated Areas

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Policy & Politics

Last week we examined how the Democratic presidential campaigns have performed in the context of Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election.

That analysis grouped Obama’s vote share into categories, highlighting how the country’s reddest and bluest counties have voted for Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders so far in the Democratic primaries. Clinton, the clear frontrunner, performed best in areas where Obama was strongest against Mitt Romney. But Sanders did slightly better when majority black counties weren’t factored.

Here’s a look at the Democratic race (through the most-recent contests) in the context of voters’ educational attainment. Each candidate’s average vote share by county is grouped by the proportion of residents in those areas with at least a bachelor’s degree. Sanders doesn’t win among any group, but he generally performs best in places where voters have more education: