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.

America Imports Lots of Stuff from China, Including Christmas Decorations

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Economy & Finance

Last year, the United States imported more than $460 billion in goods — clothes, toys, gadgets, you name it — from China. Of course, our Christmas decorations were on that list, too.

Some $2.2 billion in fake trees, miniature lights and assorted ornaments came from the Middle Kingdom last year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s detailed trade database.

The Christmas trade in ornaments is big business. It skyrocketed in the mid-1990s (like all products from China) and dipped during the recession (like all products from China).

Here’s a simple chart:

Merry Christmas. 圣诞节快乐.

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).

Seoul’s Steamy Summer (Updated)

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: South Korea, Weather

Note: I followed my wife, a foreign correspondent for NPR News, to Seoul last year. This is one of a series of posts exploring our adopted country’s demographics, politics and other nerdy data stuff. Let me know if you have ideas for future posts.

I’ve been away from Seoul for much of the summer, but now that I’m back it’s impossible not to hear all the complaining — among expats and locals alike — about the heat.

They have a point, at least in terms of their expectations. This summer has indeed been hotter than usual, especially this month, when the daily low temperature on one recent day actually exceeded the average high. (I updated the chart on Aug. 24).

Historically, the air begins cooling slightly in August. Not so this year…

Charting New York City’s Changing Borough Population, Over Time

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Demographics

I woke one recent morning at 5 a.m. obsessing about, of all things, the people of New York City — specifically how the population is distributed among the five boroughs: Brooklyn, Bronx, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island. And how that’s changed over time.

I had a general idea. But my nerd brain needed to know for sure. So I went to Wikipedia for data. These charts show the total population, by borough, since 1790.

This chart shows how the proportion of New York City residents in each borough has shifted over time. Decades ago, Manhattan was the center of population. Not anymore, of course:

How Immigration is Animating the ‘Brexit’ Vote, in Four Charts

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Demographics, Policy & Politics

Immigration to the United Kingdom has risen sharply in recent years, and it’s fueling the debate about Britain’s looming “Brexit” vote on whether to leave the European Union.

Many supporters advocating a “leave” vote on June 23 believe it’s best the best way to control Britain’s borders, which under E.U. rules have been opened to workers from other member nations.

The Brussels-based union has in recent years expanded to Eastern European nations, and residents from the those countries have flooded the U.K., population 64 million, newly released data shows. That’s stoked fears that the its traditions and values are changing. Others say the influx of outside residents keeps Britain’s economy relatively strong.

The U.K.’s Office for National Statistics tracks the ebb and flow of people each year. I’ve charted the figures ahead of the vote.

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:


Charting a Sky-High Electricity Bill

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: South Korea, Weather

What of the biggest surprises about moving to Seoul, South Korea — aside from the impenetrable language and other cultural adjustments — was the pricey cost of electricity.

The monthly power bills in our high-rise apartment, which doesn’t have western-style central air conditioning, have been shockingly expensive — and not just in the summer months.

In the past year the bills have totaled nearly 8 million won, or about $6,500, for power. The building also adds on a host of fees, from common-area electricity charges to trash collection. Those have totaled an additional 5 million won, or $4,000. Ouch.

Seoul is relatively mild during the summer, much like Washington, D.C., but it still gets sticky from June through August. So we ran the ceiling air units in each room a lot. Way too much, apparently.

Here’s a chart for the energy portion of bill, which spiked markedly as summer temperatures last year began to rise.

A Century Of Global Plane Crashes

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Uncategorized

Investigators still want to know what caused a civilian airliner to crash Tuesday morning in the French Alps. The incident, which likely killed 144 passengers and six crew members aboard the Airbus A320 destined for Germany, is one of at least 17 major crashes this year, according to the Bureau of Aircraft Accident Archives.

The group maintains a detailed database of each crash back to 1918, the early days of flight, allowing users to search 22,000 cases by year, operator, plane type and cause, among several other variables. This one is at least the 18th involving an Airbus A320, according to the database.

The chart below shows the number of crashes catalogued by the group during that time. You can see a spike in 1944, during World War II, when many military aircraft went down in battle, resulting in more than 4,300 casualties:

Since then, the number of crashes peaked in 1978 and has declined over time. There were about 120 crashes last year, according to the bureau’s records.