North Korean ‘Provocations’ Freeze During Winter?

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: North Korea, Policy & Politics

Last week I posted a visual timeline highlighting nuclear, missile and other “provocations” by the North Korean regime since 2006. The data show a clear escalation, especially in missile tests, since Kim Jong Un took power in late 2011.

It’s been more than 70 days, though, since the last provocation. The most-recent incident was the firing of an intermediate-range ballistic missile — most likely the Hwasong-12 — over Japanese territory into the Pacific Ocean. It was the latest in a flurry of tests this year.

Some, though, have been heartened by this slowdown in recent weeks, suggesting that tensions between the United States and North Korea might be cooling.

What actually might be happening, however, is that the temperature is cooling in Pyongyang, as Adam Taylor noted in The Washington Post today.

Here’s an updated version of the timeline, showing just the Kim Jong Un era:

And this simple bar chart, which categorizes provocation dates into common seasonal quarters, shows that Pyongyang’s efforts seem to cool, if you will, late in the year under Kim’s leadership:

Visualizing North Korean ‘Provocations’: A Timeline

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: North Korea, South Korea

Until the recent incident involving a defecting soldier, tensions between the United States and North Korea had cool slightly, largely because the communist regime hasn’t committed any so-called “provocations” — ballistic missile and nuclear tests — in more than two months.

Under the North’s young leader, Kim Jong Un, such incidents have increased significantly as his nation seeks to improve its ability to strike targets with nuclear weapons. That effort has included dozens of ballistic missile tests and four underground nuclear detonations during his tenure, which began in late 2011 after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il.

This timeline, inspired by a graphic made by the NPR Visuals team, shows these provocations since 2006, when the regime tested its first nuclear weapon:

Common Ground Between North and South Korea: Aging and Shrinking Populations

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Demographics, North Korea, South Korea

The birth rate in South Korea, where I live and work, hit a record low this year, leading to concern about the impact an aging (and, eventually, shrinking) population might have on the nation’s society and economy.

These charts show the long-term trends, both in actual population and projected changes, according to United Nations data. I’ve added North Korea, which actually has a higher fertility rate today, for context.

First, let’s look at the populations of the two countries, which share an ethnic background and a (mostly) common language — despite the Korean War-era division of the peninsula.

South Korea has about 51 million residents, roughly twice the number of people in the North, which has 25 million. That’s the number of South Koreans who love in the Seoul metro area, by the way.

Both populations are expected to peak in two decades — and then begin to decline.

That downward trend, for now, is much more pronounced in South Korea because of the nation’s low birth rate. Having a large family in South Korea, where housing and education costs are pricey, isn’t possible or practical for many people. The nation also has relatively weak maternity leave policies (and stubbornly traditional gender roles in the home and workplace), leading women to postpone childbirth to pursue their careers.

South Korea is slightly smaller geographically (about the size of Indiana, in terms of area) than the North (roughly the area of Pennsylvania). So their respective population densities vary, too:

Here’s how South Korea has grown, in five-year-increments, since 1950 — when the Korean War began and ultimately changed the trajectories for both countries. South Korea saw relatively rapid growth rate immediately after the war, perhaps as refugees resettled. Projections show that rate declining by 2035:

The North experienced a rapid decline during the war, mostly likely from the death toll during the conflict, the political purges that followed — and the southern migration before the border was secured. Its growth rate soon recovered, however, but could begin declining again by 2045.

Here’s hoping the Korean fertility rate rebounds, or the two nation’s unify — or either becomes more welcoming and accommodating of immigrants. At things stand now, South Korea could become “extinct” by 2750 — a worrying (though simplistic and imperfect) simulation for a uniquely homogenous society that traces its roots back thousands of years.

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 NICAR Attendance, Over the Years

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Uncategorized

Next week is the Investigative Reporters and Editors annual CAR convention — the gathering of news nerds from across the world to discuss the latest and greatest in data journalism. This year NICAR, as its known among the nerds, is in Jacksonville, Fla.

After attending each year since 2006, I had to skip the convention in 2015 and 2016 because I now live in Seoul. But I’m making the long journey to Florida this year, and I wanted to know how many people would be there.

The fine folks at IRE graciously shared historical attendance data with me:

(I’ll be using this data, by the way, for our demonstration session on NPR’s dailygrapics rig — the visualization tool I use for this blog).

Maps: Where Are America’s Alternative Fuel Stations?

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Policy & Politics

I recently stumbled upon the U.S. Department of Energy’s alternative fuels data center, a clearinghouse for information on transportation technology. Inside there’s a handy station locator tool allowing users to find fueling centers for specific types of vehicles.

Perfect for a quick map exercise:

Happy Valentine’s Day, America: Charting Our Declining Marriage Rate

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Demographics

It’s Valentine’s Day, a perfect time to note that the marriage rate in the United States has been on a steady decline for decades, save for a brief spike in 2012.

So romantic.

Here’s the rate per 1,000 people since 1997:

You can also view that rate by state. What’s up with you, Hawaii? (I’ve excluded Nevada, which skewed the axes for all the small multiples because of its freewheeling marriage culture). There are some interesting trends here, but most states remain relatively close to the national rate:

Here’s the 2015 marriage rate, by state, on a tile grid map:

Mapping South Korea’s Total and Foreign Populations — by Municipal District

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Demographics, South Korea

South Korea, my adopted home for almost two years, has about 50 million residents as of the last census, in 2015. Most of them are settled in the country’s urban areas. About 22 million residents, for example, live in Seoul, the capital in the country’s northwest corner, and its adjacent province, Gyeonggi.

As an experiment to create a choropleth map with D3 and NPR’s dailygraphics rig, which drives most of the visualizations here, I’ve mapped the total population by municipal districts. In this example, Seoul is outlined with red:

I am, of course, not a citizen of South Korea. I’m a “foreigner” — as we’re referred to here. This is where the 1.3 million foreigners — many of them ethnic Koreans who immigrated from China — have settled across the country. Again, Seoul is outlined with red:

And this map shows the roughly 330,000 foreigners living in Seoul proper. This time I’ve highlighted Yongsan-gu, my home district in the city center:

Four Decades of State Unemployment Rates, in Small Multiples, Part 2

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Economy & Finance

I posted recently about how the state-by-state unemployment rate has changed during my lifetime. The result was a small multiples grid that put the states in context with one another.

Today I’ve created a new version aimed at identifying more precisely how each state has differed from the national unemployment rate during the last four decades. The lines show the percentage point difference — above (worst) or below (better) — from the national rate.

This view allows us easily to identify the most anomalous states in both directions (West Virginia, for example, had quite an unemployment spike during the 1980s; South Dakota, on the other hand, has never been worse than the national rate).

There’s plenty more to explore in this quick remix: