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:

Before/After Imagery: American Military Base in South Korea Dramatically Expands

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Policy & Politics, Social Media

When President Trump came to South Korea earlier this month, he spoke to troops at the U.S. Army garrison known as Camp Humphreys — 40 miles south of Seoul — rather than at Yongsan, the main military headquarters in the center of the capital city.

Humphreys has gradually become the hub for American forces on the peninsula, and by next year most most of them will be stationed south of the Han River, which dissects Seoul, under a relocation agreement reached more than a decade ago.

A 3,500-acre base, Humphreys has dramatically expanded over time and is now the largest United States military installation overseas. It houses more than 10,000 soldiers — with a total population of more than 25,000, including families and South Korean troops — and has one of the busiest military airfields in Asia.

See the transformation:

CREDIT: Before/after tool created by NPR Visuals.

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.

Visualizing North Korea’s Missile Launches

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

Despite international objections, North Korea has launched four ballistic missiles in the last week, including one that flew over Japan, raising regional tensions about the rogue state’s weapons development even higher.

For those of us who live in South Korea, such provocations have become commonplace, especially since the North’s new leader, Kim Jong Un, took over after his father’s death in late 2011. They interrupt Sunday breakfasts or even national holidays, but they haven’t yet seemed like a real threat.

(Of course, they can just use their ample artillery along the border to strike Seoul, where I live).

The missile testing pace and the North’s increasingly technically ability have increased significantly in the last years, however, causing more and more heartburn in the region.

This chart shows the pace of testing over the years, including missiles that “failed” in flight:

The North has over the years developed (and borrowed) its own set of missiles, each with varying capabilities. Lately they’ve grown more powerful, though not always reliable.

Here’s how often they’ve used them, by missile type:

Since 1984, there have been at least 115 missile launches. But those tests have come from a select group of locations around the North: airfields and testing sites. Here are those tests locations, aggregated, with larger bubbles representing more launches:

And this map shows each launch in time order, with a flurry beginning in 2013. Colors change based on the missile type:

This is just a quick post, created largely because I wanted to build another proportional symbols map with D3. For a more thorough analysis, check out this post.

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: News, 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.

Mapping Opposition to the GOP Health Care Bill by Congressional District

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

The legislative failure of the GOP’s replacement for Obamacare has been widely reported, obviously, but I remain interested in one bit of polling noted this week by FiveThirtyEight.

The polling firm YouGov estimated the legislation’s unpopularity by congressional district. The bill itself was quite unpopular, it turns out, even in conservative districts, as FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver reported.

Thanks to DailyKos Elections, we can also marry the data with President Donald Trump’s vote share in each district.

I’ve been experimenting with maps in D3.js, and I hadn’t yet tried congressional districts. So this seemed like a perfect opportunity, even if thematic maps aren’t particularly useful in this context (because congressional districts vary in size geographically, such maps can be misleading).

Case in point: The national map of congressional districts, with Republicans in red and Democrats in blue . As we all know, Democratic districts tend to be smaller in terms of area and clustered in more densely populated places. So they don’t get a particularly fair representation on a map:

Consider these two treemaps. This first shows members of the U.S. House by party (with some vacancies in gray). Shapes are sized based on the average population of each congressional district: roughly 710,000 people, give or take five percent. The House has 237 Republicans, 193 Democrats and five vacancies. There’s clearly a red majority, but it’s relatively close:

This treemap, however, shows the geographic area in square miles. Now you see the distortion:

OK, you get it. So let’s see how the health care opposition looks on maps.

Charting South Korean Attitudes About Park Geun-hye’s Impeachment

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: News, South Korea

It’s been a busy few days of reporting in South Korea.

The scandal-plagued president, Park Geun-hye, was removed from office on Friday over a corruption scandal that has roiled politics and business in the country during the last six months.

Last night, two days after a court’s ruling to remove her, Park finally left the presidential complex.

The public overwhelmingly supported Park’s ouster, even if the disgraced leader wasn’t the source of all their concerns.

As one might expect, opinions about whether the former president should have been impeached vary by age and region. Here are the results of a recent survey by Gallup Korea.

First, age (the youth led the way):

And region (note that Daegu, in the southern part of the country, is Park’s home turf):

Charting NICAR Attendance, Over the Years

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: News

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).