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. This included sending highly trained North Korean forces to infiltrate South Korean territory and carry out destructive special operations. In 1984, North Korea also started testing its indigenous missiles developed through technical cooperation with the Soviet Union.

ROK-Elections-vs-Provocations-Static-Graphic-03.jpg

The nature of the inter-Korean conflict has changed over the last 20-30 years, 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. The changing 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.

ROK-Elections-vs-Provocations-Static-Graphic-04.jpg

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