Using Big Data Analytics to Better Understand Korean Unification

Beyond Parallel, powered by the analytics of Predata, is seeking to bring open source intelligence tools to issues related to Korean unification. The signals are drawn from publicly available sources on expertly curated topics to capture the volume and vigor of the online conversation around these issues. The signals are then paired with Beyond Parallel databases of historical events to analyze current trends and make predictions about future events.

Notable Events and Signal Interactions

The signals above capture the volume and engagement in conversations related to North Korean weapons programs (North Korea WMD) and inter-Korean relations. When signal spikes occur following major events, they enable Beyond Parallel to better understand the impact of these events on Korean relations, and when spikes occur independently they have often proven strong indicators that a major event is about to take place. All dates listed are in Korea Standard Time (KST) unless otherwise noted.

Kang Kyung-wha and Michael Pompeo Met in Washington, D.C. | December 6, 2018
On December 6, Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Kyung-wha met with Secretary of State Michael Pompeo during her visit to the United States. During their meeting, they reaffirmed the U.S.-ROK alliance and pledged to maintain close coordination toward the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

North and South Korea Hold Third Joint Railway Survey. | November 30 – December 17, 2018
On November 30, South and North Korea began their third joint railway survey. The survey is scheduled to last for 18 days, will cover 2,600 km of railway in North Korea, and include working-level talks. The joint research team will inspect the Gyeongui line (Kaesong – Shinuiju) from November 30 to December 5 and the Donghae line (Mount Kumgang – Duman River) from December 8 to December 17. 28 South Korean members from the Ministry of Unification, Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport, Korea Railroad Corporation, and Korea Rail Network Authority joined the survey team.

South Korea Sends 50 tons of Pesticides to North Korea. | November 29, 2018
On November 29, South Korea sent 50 tons of pesticides to North Korea to fight pine tree diseases via Gyeongui road. The delivery of pesticides came pursuant to Pyongyang Joint Declaration on September 19, inter-Korean high-level talks on October 15, and the second forestry cooperation talks on October 22. The two Koreas aim to cooperate in controlling the spread of forest diseases and preserving the peninsula’s forest ecosystem. The South Korean government said the pesticides are medical compounds that do not violate United Nations sanctions.

Inter-Korean Working-Level Talks on Communication Held. | November 23, 2018
On November 23, North and South Korea held working-level communication talks at the joint liaison office in Kaesong, North Korea. They discussed the improvement of the direct communication lines between the two sides from copper cables to fiber-optic. The talks were proposed by North Korea on November 15.

The UNSC Grants Exemption to Sanctions for Inter-Korean Railway Survey. | November 23, 2018
On November 23, the South Korean government announced that the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) had granted an exemption to sanctions for conducting joint surveys on railways. South Korea requested the exemption to proceed with the inter-Korean railway project. This development will help the two Koreas exchange fuel and other equipment across the border and test railway cars on the northern tracks.

The Two Koreas Connect Road Across DMZ. | November 22, 2018
On November 22, North and South Korea connected a road across the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). The 12-meter-wide road will be used for joint operations in 2019 to recover remains from the Korean War. The Gyeongui and Donghae lines were previously connected in 2003 and 2004 respectively for the Mount Kumgang tourism project.

U.S.-ROK Working Group Meeting Held. | November 20, 2018
On November 20, U.S. special representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun and Republic of Korea special representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs Lee Do-hoon co-chaired the first meeting of a U.S.-ROK working group in Washington. The two sides discussed complete denuclearization and lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula, as well as the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions and inter-Korean cooperation. The meeting came after the U.S. special representative’s visit to South Korea from October 29 to 30 when the two sides agreed to launch a working group to improve their coordination in North Korea related issues.

North Korea Destroys 10 Guard Posts in the DMZ. | November 20, 2018
On November 20, North Korea destroyed 10 guard posts in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). This was a follow-up measure to the “Agreement on the Implementation of the Historic Panmunjom Declaration in the Military Domain” that was agreed between the two Koreas during the inter-Korean summit in September. North Korea plans to complete the removal of guard posts by the end of November and begin the verification process in December.

Inter-Korean Aviation Talk Held. | November 16, 2018
On November 16, South and North Korea held the first aviation talk at the joint liaison office. The five-member South Korean delegation was led by Deputy Director for Civil Aviation, Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport Son Myoung-soo, while the five-member North Korean delegation was led by Deputy Director General of the General Administration of Civil Aviation Ri Yong Son. During the meeting, the two sides discussed the possibility of opening a connection of international air routes over the east and west coast.

North Korea Releases U.S. Citizen. | November 16, 2018
On November 16, North Korea released U.S. citizen Bruce Byron Lowrance who was detained on October 16 for illegally entering North Korea. In response to the release, the U.S. Department of State said, “The United States appreciates the cooperation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the embassy of Sweden in facilitating the release of an American citizen.”

Kim Jong-un Inspects the Testing of a High-Tech Tactical Weapon. | November 16, 2018
On November 16, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said North Korean leader Kim Jong-un inspected the testing of a high-tech tactical weapon during his visit to North Korea’s Academy of Defense Science. KCNA further said Kim “expressed great satisfaction” at the successful test of the tactical weapon. During the inspection, he was accompanied by Choe Ryong Hae, Ri Pyong Chol, Ri Jong Sik, Jo Yong Won, Kim Yong Su, Kim Chang Son, and Pak Jong Chon. North Korea has not tested weapons publicly since the launch of the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile on November 29, 2017.

Ninth Round of the Special Measures Agreement Talk Held. | November 13 – 16, 2018
The ninth round of the Special Measures Agreement (SMA) talk was held in Honolulu, Hawaii from November 13-16 (HST). South Korea’s delegation was led by Special Representative for SMA Consultations Chang Won-sam and the U.S. delegation was led by Senior Advisor for Security Negotiations and Agreements Timothy Betts. The meeting discussed the 10th Special Measures Agreement (SMA), which will enter into force in 2019. The first round of negotiations was held in March.

2nd Inter-Korean Joint Road Research Meeting Held. | November 12, 2018
On November 12, the two Koreas held a second meeting to discuss the joint survey of cross-border roads at the liaison office. The five-member South Korean delegation was led by Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport Paek Seung-geun, while the eight-member North Korean delegation was led by Kim Ki-chol. During the meeting, the two sides discussed the modernization of roads and the joint survey of cross-border roads along the east coast. The first inter-Korean joint road research meeting was held on August 13.

South Korea Sends Tangerines to North Korea as a Gift. | November 11, 2018
On November 11, South Korea sent 200 tons of tangerines as a gift to North Korea. The present came after North Korea had given South Korean president Moon Jae-in two tons of pine mushrooms after the third inter-Korean summit in September. The tangerines were sent using South Korean military transport aircraft. Vice Minister of Unification Chun Hae-sung met Vice Chairman of Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country Jon Jong-soo in North Korea to hand over the gift.

The Two Koreas Complete the Withdrawal of Military Equipment from the 11 DMZ Guard Posts. | November 10, 2018
On November 10, the two Koreas completed the probationary withdrawal of all firearms, equipment, and military forces from 11 guard posts in the Demilitarized Zone, which had begun on November 1. Through the end of November, the two Koreas will take measures to completely destroy all the remaining facilities of the 10 guard posts, except for one which the two sides had agreed to preserve together.

Big Data in International Relations

Big data refers to any collection of large amounts of information that can come from nearly any source. In addition to traditional sources of data, the internet offers a plethora of potential sources for big data sets including web page edits, social media posts, and online news stories. These data sets are large and complex, requiring specialized data processing software to arrange the data and extract useful information. With the right tools, we can use big data analytics to search for patterns and correlations to learn more about the world or make predictions about the future. These analytics can be applied to a broad array of topics ranging from sports, politics, popular culture, to intelligence in international relations.

In the field of international relations, signals intelligence derived from electronic sources, including the internet, have been a tool used by the intelligence community to bring more intelligence information to policymakers as they make decisions about global affairs. But not all that information and intelligence has to be from top-secret sources to be incredibly valuable. Open source intelligence signals are in fact a rich source of information that can provide important insights and context to current events and ongoing trends.

Combining this new big data tool with established tools such as expert analysis, satellite imagery, and historical lessons should bring new information to policymakers, academics, and the expert community as we seek to build a greater understanding of topics and events surrounding Korean unification.

Additional Reading