Analysis, Foreign Affairs, Governance, Military

DPRK Provocations Possible Around South Korean Elections

To study the relationship between North Korean provocations and South Korean elections, Beyond Parallel created a new database of events incorporating both presidential and national assembly elections from the Republic of Korea (ROK) over the last six decades. The event set was cross-tabulated with Beyond Parallel’s original dataset on North Korean provocations. Based on this cross-comparison, the correlation between North Korean provocations and South Korean elections was calculated in terms of a “provocation window.” The provocation window was defined as the number of days or weeks between a North Korean provocation and an ROK election event (either before or after it occurred).

This new study is one of the first to examine the relationship between ROK elections and North Korean provocations with the key findings listed below.

Key Findings

  • The provocation window between South Korean elections and North Korean provocations has become more narrow over time. A previous Beyond Parallel study also found that North Korean kinetic provocations, including missile and nuclear tests, have clustered increasingly closer to U.S. elections.
  • Under Kim Jong-un, the average window for a North Korean provocation bracketed around all ROK elections is 6.5 days (about 1 week). The average for presidential elections is 15 days or about two weeks.
  • This represents a significant change from previous periods: Under the leadership of both Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il the window was an average of about 10 and 11 weeks respectively.
  • There has been a transformation in the types of kinetic provocations that North Korea has carried out over the last 20 years. The provocations are now overwhelmingly comprised of missile and nuclear tests rather than other types of conventional kinetic military actions.
  • This pattern suggests a provocation as early as two weeks before the South Korean elections on May 9th. The start of the provocation window falls on Military Foundation Day (April 25), a holiday in North Korea, and 10 days after the 105th anniversary of Kim Il-sung’s birthday on April 15th (KST).

North Korean Provocations and ROK Elections (1986-2016)

Beyond Parallel created a dataset of ROK election events, incorporating both presidential and national assembly election years, and cross-tabulated this information with our original dataset on North Korean provocations over the same period. The graph below illustrates how close (in number of days or weeks) North Korean provocations have occurred in relation to ROK elections.


On use of graph note following:

  • The red line represents the day of the election. Points above and below the redline represent North Korean provocations before and after an election.
  • When a user hovers on a particular point they can view the amount of days before or after an election and the specific date and type of provocation.
  • Viewers can zoom into a particular point in time by clicking the left mouse button and dragging their mouse across the graph. A specific window of data can also be downloaded.
  • Users can also toggle between national assembly and presidential datasets. To do this click on the specific type of election at the bottom of graph.

ROK Elections and DPRK Provocations Since 1958

Under Kim Il-Sung (1958 – 1994)

Kim Il-sung

 

Window for presidential elections = 85 days / 12 weeks

Window for National Assembly elections = 58 days / 8 weeks

Total average = 72 days / 10 weeks

Under Kim Jong-il (1994 – 2011)

Kim Jong-il

 

Window for presidential elections = 106 days / 15 weeks

Window for National Assembly elections = 54 days / 7.8 weeks

Total average = 76 days / 11 weeks

Under Kim Jong-un (2012 – Present)

Kim Jong-un

 

Window for presidential elections = 15 days / 2 weeks

Window for National Assembly elections = 2 days

Total average = 6.5 days / 1 week

This data demonstrates, along with other forms of qualitative information, that the relationship between South Korea and North Korea over the last 60 years has remained highly competitive and conflictual. Despite limited progress made during brief periods of economic cooperation and political reconciliation, inter-Korean relations are still highly antagonistic due to domestic economic and political imperatives, geopolitical dynamics, and historical grievances.

In the past, the inter-Korean conflict manifested itself primarily through conventional military clashes along the borders of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and the Northern Limit Line (NLL) in the West Sea. Both North and South Korea historically engaged in activities that sought to undermine each other’s military power and respective political and economic systems. In the 1960s and 1970s, North Korea even pursued a deliberate strategy of using guerilla warfare tactics to create disruptions in the South Korean government.

The nature of this inter-Korean conflict is changing, however, because of North Korea’s increasingly rapid development of asymmetric threat capabilities and non-conventional weapons systems. This includes major advancements in nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles systems as well as sophisticated cyber operations. This trend is clear from an analysis of North Korean provocations over the last six decades as well as their connection to important domestic events in South Korea like political elections.

Other Findings

  • There was one instance in the past when North Korea welcomed the South Korean elections with a provocation on the same day–that was the date of the national assembly elections held in December 1978.
  • In conducting provocations before or after an election period North Korea did not necessarily discriminate between liberal and conservative ROK presidents. North Korea in fact launched an anti-cruise ship missile on the same day that former president Roh Moo-hyun was inaugurated into office, that is 67 days after his election.
  • In terms of the total volume of provocations, the largest uptick in the number of events over the sixty year period occurred between 1966-1969 and 2012-2017.

NKOREA-JAPAN-MISSILE.jpg

ROK Elections and DPRK Provocations

Election YearElection TypeProvocation DescriptionProvocation Window Before/After ElectionProvocation Date
02/05/1958 National Assembly Hijacking of South Korean Plane 75 days before election 16/02/1958
02/05/1958 National Assembly U.S. Plane Shot Down by NK 57 days before election 06/03/1958
15/03/1960 Presidential NK Fighter Jets Attack U.S. Navy Plane 274 days before election 15/06/1959
12/08/1960 Presidential Exchange of Fire and Sinking of NK Vessel 13 days before election 30/07/1960
29/06/1960 National Assembly Exchange of Fire and Sinking of NK Vessel 31 days after election 30/07/1960
15/10/1963 Presidential DMZ Exchange of Fire 329 days before election 20/11/1962
15/10/1963 Presidential DMZ Exchange of Fire 78 days before election 29/07/1963
26/11/1963 National Assembly NK Attacks U.S. Airforce Plane 354 days after election 14/11/1964
26/11/1963 National Assembly NK Fighter Jets Attack U.S. Reconnaissance Plane 519 days after election 28/04/1965
03/05/1967 Presidential Infiltration and Incursion 351 days before election 17/05/1966
03/05/1967 Presidential DMZ Exchange of Fire 182 days before election 02/11/1966
03/05/1967 Presidential Sinking of South Korean Patrol Boat 104 days before election 19/01/1967
03/05/1967 Presidential Infiltration and Incursion (Territorial) 21 days before election 12/04/1967
03/05/1967 Presidential Infiltration and Incursion (Maritime) 16 days before election 17/04/1967
08/06/1967 National Assembly Attack on U.S. Military Barracks 17 days before election 22/05/1967
08/06/1967 National Assembly Infiltration and Incursion 2 days after election 10/06/1967
08/06/1967 National Assembly Infiltration and Incursion 9 days after election 17/06/1967
08/06/1967 National Assembly Infiltration and Incursion 15 days after election 23/06/1967
08/06/1967 National Assembly Infiltration and Incursion 20 days after election 28/06/1967
08/06/1967 National Assembly Infiltration and Incursion 21 days after election 29/06/1967
08/06/1967 National Assembly Infiltration and Incursion 25 days after election 03/07/1967
08/06/1967 National Assembly Infiltration and Incursion 27 days after election 05/07/1967
08/06/1967 National Assembly Infiltration and Incursion 36 days after election 14/07/1967
08/06/1967 National Assembly Infiltration and Incursion 40 days after election 18/07/1967
08/06/1967 National Assembly Ambush on U.S. Soldiers 63 days after election 10/08/1967
08/06/1967 National Assembly Ambush on U.S. Soldiers 81 days after election 28/08/1967
08/06/1967 National Assembly Ambush on U.S. Soldiers 82 days after election 29/08/1967
08/06/1967 National Assembly Bombing of Train Station Terror Act 89 days after election 05/09/1967
08/06/1967 National Assembly Bombing of Train Station Terror Act 97 days after election 13/09/1967
08/06/1967 National Assembly Raid on Blue House (Cheong Wa Dae) 227 days after election 21/01/1968
08/06/1967 National Assembly Seizure of USS Pueblo 229 days after election 23/01/1968
08/06/1967 National Assembly Infiltration and Incursion - DMZ Exchange of Fire 311 days after election 14/04/1968
08/06/1967 National Assembly Infiltration and Incursion - DMZ Exchange of Fire 318 days after election 21/04/1968
08/06/1967 National Assembly Infiltration and Incursion - DMZ Exchange of Fire 424 days after election 05/08/1968
08/06/1967 National Assembly Infiltration and Incursion - Exchange of Fire on Jeju Island 440 days after election 21/08/1968
08/06/1967 National Assembly Infiltration and Incursion - Arrest of Spy Ring on Jeju Island 443 days after election 24/08/1968
08/06/1967 National Assembly Infiltration and Incursion - Exchange of Fire 448 days after election 29/08/1968
08/06/1967 National Assembly Infiltration and Incursion - DMZ Exchange of Fire 469 days after election 19/09/1968
08/06/1967 National Assembly Infiltration and Incursion - Exchange of Fire at West MDL 474 days after election 24/09/1968
08/06/1967 National Assembly Infiltration and Incursion - DMZ Exchange of Fire 503 days after election 23/10/1968
08/06/1967 National Assembly Infiltration and Incursion - Exchange of Fire at Uljin & Samcheok 510 days after election 30/10/1968
08/06/1967 National Assembly Infiltration and Incursion - Exchange of Fire at Uljin & Samcheok 511 days after election 31/10/1968
08/06/1967 National Assembly Infiltration and Incursion - Exchange of Fire at Uljin & Samcheok 512 days after election 01/11/1968
08/06/1967 National Assembly Infiltration and Incursion - Exchange of Fire at Uljin & Samcheok 513 days after election 02/11/1968
08/06/1967 National Assembly Infiltration and Incursion - Exchange of Fire at Uljin & Samcheok 514 days after election 03/11/1968
08/06/1967 National Assembly Infiltration and Incursion - Exchange of Fire at Uljin 523 days after election 12/11/1968
08/06/1967 National Assembly Infiltration and Incursion - DMZ Exchange of Fire 646 days after election 15/03/1969
08/06/1967 National Assembly Assault by NK Armed Agent 649 days after election 18/03/1969
08/06/1967 National Assembly Attack on U.S. Reconnaissance Plane 677 days after election 15/04/1969
27/04/1971 Presidential Infiltration and Sinking of North Korean Vessel 688 days before election 08/06/1969
27/04/1971 Presidential Capture of NK Spy Naval Vessel 684 days before election 12/06/1969
27/04/1971 Presidential Sinking of NK Spy Naval Vessel 561 days before election 13/10/1969
27/04/1971 Presidential Hijacking of South Korean Plane 502 days before election 11/12/1969
27/04/1971 Presidential Hijacking of JAL Aircraft (Boeing 727) 392 days before election 31/03/1970
27/04/1971 Presidential Infiltration and Sinking of North Korean Vessel 388 days before election 04/04/1970
27/04/1971 Presidential Infiltration and Incursion 384 days before election 08/04/1970
27/04/1971 Presidential Seizure of South Korean Broadcasting Vessel 326 days before election 05/06/1970
27/04/1971 Presidential Infiltration and Capture of North Korean Vessel 302 days before election 29/06/1970
27/04/1971 Presidential Infiltration and Sinking of North Korean Vessel 273 days before election 28/07/1970
27/04/1971 Presidential Infiltration and Sinking of North Korean Vessel 199 days before election 10/10/1970
27/04/1971 Presidential Attempted Hijacking of KAL Aircraft 94 days before election 23/01/1971
25/05/1971 National Assembly Infiltration and Sinking of North Korean Vessel 11 days before election 14/05/1971
25/05/1971 National Assembly Infiltration and Incursion 7 days after election 01/06/1971
25/05/1971 National Assembly Infiltration and Incursion - Exchange of Fire at DMZ 83 days after election 16/08/1971
23/12/1972 Presidential Exchange of Fire at DMZ 74 days after election 07/03/1973
27/02/1973 National Assembly Exchange of Fire at DMZ 8 days after election 07/03/1973
27/02/1973 National Assembly Sinking of SK Fishing Boats and 30 Fishermen Detained 353 days after election 15/02/1974
27/02/1973 National Assembly Infiltration and Incursion 448 days after election 21/05/1974
27/02/1973 National Assembly Sinking of South Korean Coast Guard Vessel 486 days after election 28/06/1974
27/02/1973 National Assembly Attempted Assasination of President Park Chung-hee 534 days after election 15/08/1974
27/02/1973 National Assembly Infiltration and Discovery of NK Tunnel System 631 days after election 20/11/1974
27/02/1973 National Assembly Collision and Sinking of North Korean Vessel 729 days after election 26/02/1975
27/02/1973 National Assembly Major Henderson Incident 853 days after election 30/06/1975
27/02/1973 National Assembly Infiltration and Incursion 926 days after election 11/09/1975
27/02/1973 National Assembly Infiltration and Sinking of North Korean Vessel 951 days after election 06/10/1975
06/07/1978 Presidential Infiltration and Incursion 745 days before election 21/06/1976
06/07/1978 Presidential Panmunjom Axe Murder Incident 687 days before election 18/08/1976
06/07/1978 Presidential Infiltration and Sinking of North Korean Vessel 69 days before election 28/04/1978
06/07/1978 Presidential Infiltration and Sinking of North Korean Vessel 48 days before election 19/05/1978
12/12/1978 National Assembly Killing of South Korean Civilians 38 days before election 04/11/1978
12/12/1978 National Assembly Exchange of Fire at DMZ 35 days before election 07/11/1978
06/12/1979 Presidential Infiltration and Sinking of North Korean Vessel 138 days before election 21/07/1979
06/12/1979 Presidential Infiltration and Incursion 108 days after election 23/03/1980
27/08/1980 Presidential Infiltration and Sinking of North Korean Vessel 67 days before election 21/06/1980
27/08/1980 Presidential Exchange of Fire 69 days after election 04/11/1980
25/02/1981 Presidential Infiltration and Sinking of North Korean Vessel 85 days before election 02/12/1980
25/03/1981 National Assembly Infiltration and Sinking of North Korean Vessel 88 days after election 21/06/1981
25/03/1981 National Assembly NK Fires at U.S. Reconnaissance Plane 154 days after election 26/08/1981
12/02/1985 National Assembly Infiltration and Incursion 557 days before election 05/08/1983
12/02/1985 National Assembly Infiltration and Incursion 549 days before election 13/08/1983
12/02/1985 National Assembly Explosion at U.S. Cultural Center in Taegu 509 days before election 22/09/1983
12/02/1985 National Assembly The Rangoon Bombing 492 days before election 09/10/1983
12/02/1985 National Assembly Infiltration and Incursion 437 days before election 03/12/1983
12/02/1985 National Assembly Assault and Assassination Attempt 362 days before election 16/02/1984
12/02/1985 National Assembly Short-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 317 days before election 01/04/1984
12/02/1985 National Assembly Short-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 164 days before election 01/09/1984
12/02/1985 National Assembly Assault and Assassination Attempt 141 days before election 24/09/1984
12/02/1985 National Assembly Exchange of Fire (Ground) 81 days before election 23/11/1984
12/02/1985 National Assembly Short-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 115 days after election 07/06/1985
12/02/1985 National Assembly Infiltration and Incursion 250 days after election 20/10/1985
12/02/1985 National Assembly Exchange of Fire (Maritime) 436 days after election 24/04/1986
16/12/1987 Presidential Airport Terror Bombing 458 days before election 14/09/1986
16/12/1987 Presidential Exchange of Fire (Ground) 25 days before election 21/11/1987
16/12/1987 Presidential Bombing of South Korean Civilian Aircraft 17 days before election 29/11/1987
26/04/1988 National Assembly Bombing of South Korean Civilian Aircraft 149 days before election 29/11/1987
26/04/1988 National Assembly Infiltration and Incursion 676 days after election 03/03/1990
24/03/1992 National Assembly Medium-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 693 days before election 01/05/1990
24/03/1992 National Assembly Short-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 662 days before election 01/06/1990
24/03/1992 National Assembly Short-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 267 days before election 01/07/1991
24/03/1992 National Assembly Infiltration and Incursion 59 days after election 22/05/1992
24/03/1992 National Assembly Medium-range Ballistic Missile Launch 69 days after election 01/06/1992
18/12/1992 Presidential Medium-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 162 days after election 29/05/1993
18/12/1992 Presidential Medium-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 163 days after election 30/05/1993
18/12/1992 Presidential Anti-Ship Cruise Missile Launch 529 days after election 31/05/1994
18/12/1992 Presidential Anti-Ship Cruise Missile Launch 531 days after election 02/06/1994
11/04/1996 National Assembly U.S. Helicopter Shot Down 481 days before election 17/12/1994
11/04/1996 National Assembly Anti-Ship Cruise Missile Launch 377 days before election 31/03/1995
11/04/1996 National Assembly Detainment of South Korean Vessel 254 days before election 01/08/1995
11/04/1996 National Assembly Infiltration and Incursion 177 days before election 17/10/1995
11/04/1996 National Assembly Infiltration and Incursion 169 days before election 25/10/1995
11/04/1996 National Assembly Territorial Provocation (Ground) 6 days before election 05/04/1996
11/04/1996 National Assembly Territorial Provocation (Ground) 5 days before election 06/04/1996
11/04/1996 National Assembly Territorial Provocation (Ground) 4 days before election 07/04/1996
11/04/1996 National Assembly Infiltration and Incursion 160 days after election 18/09/1996
11/04/1996 National Assembly Exchange of Fire (Ground) 161 days after election 19/09/1996
11/04/1996 National Assembly Exchange of Fire (Ground) 163 days after election 21/09/1996
11/04/1996 National Assembly Exchange of Fire (Ground) 164 days after election 22/09/1996
11/04/1996 National Assembly Exchange of Fire (Ground) 170 days after election 28/09/1996
11/04/1996 National Assembly Exchange of Fire (Ground) 172 days after election 30/09/1996
11/04/1996 National Assembly Exchange of Fire from Manhunt - Final Incident 208 days after election 05/11/1996
19/12/1997 Presidential Exchange of Fire (Ground) 253 days before election 10/04/1997
19/12/1997 Presidential Anti-Ship Cruise Missile Launch 210 days before election 23/05/1997
19/12/1997 Presidential Territorial Provocation (Maritime) 197 days before election 05/06/1997
19/12/1997 Presidential Exchange of Fire (Ground) 156 days before election 16/07/1997
19/12/1997 Presidential Infiltration and Incursion 185 days after election 22/06/1998
19/12/1997 Presidential Infiltration and Incursion 205 days after election 12/07/1998
19/12/1997 Presidential Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 255 days after election 31/08/1998
19/12/1997 Presidential Infiltration and Incursion 336 days after election 20/11/1998
19/12/1997 Presidential Infiltration and Incursion 363 days after election 17/12/1998
13/04/2000 National Assembly First Yeonpyeong Naval Campaign 303 days before election 15/06/1999
13/04/2000 National Assembly NK Maritime Border Declaration 21 days before election 23/03/2000
19/12/2002 Presidential Territorial Incursion (Ground) 456 days before election 19/09/2001
19/12/2002 Presidential Territorial Incursion (Ground) 455 days before election 20/09/2001
19/12/2002 Presidential Territorial Incursion (Maritime) 362 days before election 22/12/2001
19/12/2002 Presidential Second Yeonpyeong Naval Campaign 173 days before election 29/06/2002
19/12/2002 Presidential Territorial Incursion (Air) 63 days after election 20/02/2003
19/12/2002 Presidential Anti-Ship Cruise Missile Launch 67 days after election 24/02/2003
19/12/2002 Presidential Aircraft Interception 73 days after election 02/03/2003
19/12/2002 Presidential Anti-Ship Cruise Missile Launch 81 days after election 10/03/2003
19/12/2002 Presidential Territorial Incursion (Maritime) 164 days after election 01/06/2003
19/12/2002 Presidential Exchange of Fire (Ground) 210 days after election 17/07/2003
19/12/2002 Presidential Territorial Incursion (Maritime) 232 days after election 08/08/2003
15/04/2004 National Assembly Territorial Incursion (Maritime) 236 days before election 23/08/2003
15/04/2004 National Assembly Anti-Ship Cruise Missile Launch 178 days before election 20/10/2003
15/04/2004 National Assembly Anti-Ship Cruise Missile Launch 381 days after election 01/05/2005
19/12/2007 Presidential Short-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 652 days before election 07/03/2006
19/12/2007 Presidential Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile/Short-Range Missile Launches 533 days before election 04/07/2006
19/12/2007 Presidential Nuclear Test 436 days before election 09/10/2006
19/12/2007 Presidential Short-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 208 days before election 25/05/2007
19/12/2007 Presidential Anti-Ship Cruise Missile Launch 195 days before election 07/06/2007
19/12/2007 Presidential Short-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 175 days before election 27/06/2007
19/12/2007 Presidential Anti-Ship Cruise Missile Launch 100 days after election 28/03/2008
09/04/2008 National Assembly Anti-Ship Cruise Missile Launch 12 days before election 28/03/2008
09/04/2008 National Assembly Anti-Ship Cruise Missile Launch 51 days after election 30/05/2008
09/04/2008 National Assembly Killing of South Korean Tourist at Mt. Kumgang Resort 93 days after election 11/07/2008
09/04/2008 National Assembly Anti-Ship Cruise Missile Launch 181 days after election 07/10/2008
09/04/2008 National Assembly Satellite Launch 361 days after election 05/04/2009
09/04/2008 National Assembly Nuclear Test / Short-Range Missile Launch 411 days after election 25/05/2009
09/04/2008 National Assembly Short-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 412 days after election 26/05/2009
09/04/2008 National Assembly Short-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 413 days after election 27/05/2009
09/04/2008 National Assembly Short-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 415 days after election 29/05/2009
09/04/2008 National Assembly Short-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 449 days after election 02/07/2009
09/04/2008 National Assembly Medium-range Ballistic Missile Launch 451 days after election 04/07/2009
09/04/2008 National Assembly Seizure of Fishing Boat at NLL 477 days after election 30/07/2009
09/04/2008 National Assembly Short-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 551 days after election 12/10/2009
09/04/2008 National Assembly Daecheong Naval Campaign 580 days after election 10/11/2009
09/04/2008 National Assembly NK Declares No-Sail Zone 657 days after election 26/01/2010
09/04/2008 National Assembly Artillery Fire 658 days after election 27/01/2010
09/04/2008 National Assembly Artillery Fire 659 days after election 28/01/2010
09/04/2008 National Assembly Artillery Fire 660 days after election 29/01/2010
09/04/2008 National Assembly NK Declares No-Sail Zone 662 days after election 31/01/2010
09/04/2008 National Assembly Sinking of the ROKS Cheonan 716 days after election 26/03/2010
11/04/2012 National Assembly Artillery Fire 611 days before election 09/08/2010
11/04/2012 National Assembly Shelling of Yeonpyeong Island 505 days before election 23/11/2010
11/04/2012 National Assembly Short-Range Surface-to-Air Missile Launch 308 days before election 08/06/2011
11/04/2012 National Assembly Anti-Ship Cruise Missile Launch 13 days before election 29/03/2012
11/04/2012 National Assembly Satellite Launch 2 days after election 13/04/2012
19/12/2012 Presidential Satellite Launch 7 days before election 12/12/2012
19/12/2012 Presidential Nuclear Test 55 days after election 12/02/2013
19/12/2012 Presidential Short-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 86 days after election 15/03/2013
19/12/2012 Presidential Short-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 150 days after election 18/05/2013
19/12/2012 Presidential Short-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 151 days after election 19/05/2013
19/12/2012 Presidential Short-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 152 days after election 20/05/2013
19/12/2012 Presidential Short-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 435 days after election 27/02/2014
19/12/2012 Presidential Short-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 439 days after election 03/03/2014
19/12/2012 Presidential Short-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 440 days after election 04/03/2014
19/12/2012 Presidential Short-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 452 days after election 16/03/2014
19/12/2012 Presidential Short-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 458 days after election 22/03/2014
19/12/2012 Presidential Short-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 459 days after election 23/03/2014
19/12/2012 Presidential Medium-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 462 days after election 26/03/2014
19/12/2012 Presidential NLL Exchange of Fire 467 days after election 31/03/2014
19/12/2012 Presidential NLL Exchange of Fire 519 days after election 22/05/2014
19/12/2012 Presidential Short-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 554 days after election 26/06/2014
19/12/2012 Presidential Short-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 557 days after election 29/06/2014
19/12/2012 Presidential Short-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 560 days after election 02/07/2014
19/12/2012 Presidential Short-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 567 days after election 09/07/2014
19/12/2012 Presidential Short-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 571 days after election 13/07/2014
19/12/2012 Presidential Short-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 584 days after election 26/07/2014
19/12/2012 Presidential Short-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 603 days after election 14/08/2014
13/04/2016 National Assembly Short-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 585 days before election 06/09/2014
13/04/2016 National Assembly NLL Exchange of Fire 554 days before election 07/10/2014
13/04/2016 National Assembly DMZ Exchange of Fire 551 days before election 10/10/2014
13/04/2016 National Assembly DMZ Exchange of Fire 542 days before election 19/10/2014
13/04/2016 National Assembly Anti-Ship Cruise Missile Launch 431 days before election 07/02/2015
13/04/2016 National Assembly Short-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 430 days before election 08/02/2015
13/04/2016 National Assembly Short-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 408 days before election 02/03/2015
13/04/2016 National Assembly Short-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 397 days before election 13/03/2015
13/04/2016 National Assembly Short-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 377 days before election 02/04/2015
13/04/2016 National Assembly Short-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 376 days before election 03/04/2015
13/04/2016 National Assembly Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile Launch 341 days before election 08/05/2015
13/04/2016 National Assembly Anti-Ship Cruise Missile Launch 304 days before election 14/06/2015
13/04/2016 National Assembly Land Mine Explosion 253 days before election 04/08/2015
13/04/2016 National Assembly DMZ Exchange of Fire 237 days before election 20/08/2015
13/04/2016 National Assembly Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile Launch 137 days before election 28/11/2015
13/04/2016 National Assembly Nuclear Test 98 days before election 06/01/2016
13/04/2016 National Assembly Satellite Launch 66 days before election 07/02/2016
13/04/2016 National Assembly Short-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 41 days before election 03/03/2016
13/04/2016 National Assembly Short-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 34 days before election 10/03/2016
13/04/2016 National Assembly Medium-range Ballistic Missile Launch 26 days before election 18/03/2016
13/04/2016 National Assembly Short-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 23 days before election 21/03/2016
13/04/2016 National Assembly Short-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 15 days before election 29/03/2016
13/04/2016 National Assembly Long-Range Surface-to-Air Missile Launch 12 days before election 01/04/2016
13/04/2016 National Assembly Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile Launch 7 days before election 06/04/2016
13/04/2016 National Assembly Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 2 days after election 15/04/2016
13/04/2016 National Assembly Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile Launch 10 days after election 23/04/2016
13/04/2016 National Assembly Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 15 days after election 28/04/2016
13/04/2016 National Assembly Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 48 days after election 31/05/2016
13/04/2016 National Assembly Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 70 days after election 22/06/2016
13/04/2016 National Assembly Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile Launch 87 days after election 09/07/2016
13/04/2016 National Assembly Medium-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 97 days after election 19/07/2016
13/04/2016 National Assembly Medium-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 112 days after election 03/08/2016
13/04/2016 National Assembly Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile Launch 133 days after election 24/08/2016
13/04/2016 National Assembly Medium-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 145 days after election 05/09/2016
13/04/2016 National Assembly Nuclear Test 149 days after election 09/09/2016
13/04/2016 National Assembly Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 185 days after election 15/10/2016
13/04/2016 National Assembly Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 190 days after election 20/10/2016
09/05/2017 Presidential Medium-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 86 days before election 12/02/2017
09/05/2017 Presidential Short-Range Ballistic Missile Launch 64 days before election 06/03/2017
09/05/2017 Presidential Failed Ballistic Missile Launch 48 days before election 22/03/2017
09/05/2017 Presidential Medium-range Ballistic Missile Launch (East Sea) 34 days before election 05/04/2017
09/05/2017 Presidential Failed Ballistic Missile Launch 23 days before election 16/04/2017
Election YearElection TypeProvocation DescriptionProvocation Window Before/After ElectionProvocation Date


Additional considerations

  • Sample size: The sample size for the Kim Jong-un period is small (one presidential and two national assembly elections).
  • Provocation: We define a provocation as an intentional action taken by North Korea that breaches the sovereignty of another country, causes significant personal injury or damage to property, and/or constitutes a serious violation of international law for particular diplomatic, military, or political objectives.
  • Average provocation window: A total of all provocation windows closest to an election were calculated and then divided by the total number of ROK elections that took place under the ruling period of each North Korean leader.
  • Correlation only: Our study indicates a pattern in North Korean provocations around South Korean elections. We do not suggest that elections cause the provocations. Our findings also do not deny that there may be multiple causes for the timing of North Korean actions including technology-related goals, military variables, and domestic-political objectives.
  • Time Period: To limit the effects of the Korean War conflict on this analysis, we selected 1958 as the starting year for this study. This is despite the fact that Kim Il-sung officially became the North Korean supreme leader almost 10 years prior to 1958.