South Korea’s (Residential) Rise: How Building Heights, Home Sizes Vary

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: South Korea

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 never lived in a high-rise building before moving to South Korea, but now home is 35 stories above central Seoul. The view is pretty great — when, of course, it isn’t obscured by pollution.

I’m just one of about 10 million Seoul residents in a geographic footprint the size of Chicago, so high-rise residential seems normal. How common is it, though, and how has that changed over time? These charts attempt to answer.

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…

Air Quality in Seoul, China, U.S.

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: News, 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:

air-quality-days

Mapping South Korea’s Foreigners

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Demographics, South Korea

korea-foreigners-seoul

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!).

Where are Korea’s Foreigners From?

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Demographics, South Korea

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):

MEN vs. WOMEN
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):

country-sexSM

COUNTRY & PROVINCE/CITY
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.

country-provinceSM

PROVINCE/CITY & COUNTRY
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:

province-countrySM

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.

COUNTRY & GENDER

table-sex

PROVINCE/CITY & GENDER

table-province

* 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.

Someday I’ll Say Goodbye to Seoul. I Might Miss the Weather.

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 in Seoul just over a year, and I can’t stay here forever, so I’m starting to think seriously about the next city. For me, a key consideration is weather (and, you know, work and kids’ schools and such).

Seoul’s been pretty great, especially the relatively mild summers. But what can I expect from the next town? Here are the average monthly temperatures for the likely contenders. Some are warmer than others:

weather

Or maybe one of these 269 places?

Data source: NOAA Comparative Climate Data

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.

DC, Seoul Share Similar Climate — Until The Summer Rains Come

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: South Korea, Uncategorized, Weather

As I noted yesterday, we can expect similar weather here in Seoul as we experienced in Washington, D.C., where we lived until earlier this month. The two capital cities are located about the same distance from the Equator, along the 38th parallel north.

We’ll be in for something different this summer, however. That’s when the rains come. On average, Seoul gets about 35 inches of rain during July and August alone. To put that in perspective, our former home city, Austin, receives about the same amount annually. Seoul gets more rain in these months than most major cities in the American West, in fact.

Compare Austin, Seoul and Washington, D.C., in this chart:

The number of days with some rain also spikes a bit during the Seoul summer. Again, compare the cities: