Visualizing More Than a Decade of North Korean Defections

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

Another North Korean soldier defected at the Demilitarized Zone on Thursday, causing a brief skirmish along the highly fortified border. He was the fourth solder to defect this year, including the one last month who was shot several times by his comrades before he made it to safety in South Korea.

There have been tens of thousands of defections from the communist regime since the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War. Most don’t occur at the DMZ, a 2.5-mile buffer zone filled with landmines, guard posts and barbed wire.

Here’s a look at some of the demographics of those North Koreans who defected over the years.

This first chart shows the numbers of defectors since 2001, by gender. You can see that women have been more likely to defect — and that there was a sharp drop-off in defections beginning in 2012. That’s the year that Kim Jong Un, the grandson of North Korea’s founder, Kim Il Sung, took power. Coincidence? Probably not.

This next bar chart shows the defector counts by age groups, again while breaking out gender. It’s easier to defect when you’re young, I suppose.

And, finally, a provincial map showing where known defectors came from, with darker shades representing more defections. North Hamgyong Province had the most (more than 18,000), probably because defectors can sneak across the Tumen River — which forms about a third of the border between China and North Korea.

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

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: 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):

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…