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.

Inter-Korean High-Level Talks Held. | October 15, 2018
On October 15, South and North Korea held high-level talks to discuss ways to implement the Pyongyang Joint Declaration of September 2018 at the Pamunjom Peace House. The South Korean delegation, led by the Minister of Unification Cho Myoung Gyon, included government officials and vice-ministers. During the meeting, the two Koreas agreed to carry out detailed surveys of the western railways in late October and start a joint project that would modernize and connect the railways and roads in late November or early December. In a joint press release, they further committed to holding a ground-breaking ceremony for “connecting and modernizing rail and road systems along the eastern and western regions.” The two Koreas also agreed to discuss issues related to families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War through Red Cross Talks and to hold a general-level military meeting to ease military tensions.

Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha Holds Working Dinner with Secretary of State Michael Pompeo. | October 7, 2018
On October 7, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha of South Korea met with U.S. secretary of state Michael Pompeo after his courtesy call with President Moon Jae-in. During the working dinner, they exchanged views on Secretary Pompeo’s visit to North Korea. They further agreed to maintain cooperation between the U.S. and South Korea regarding the proposed U.S. – North Korea summit and to achieve denuclearization on the Korean peninsula.

President Moon Meets with Secretary of State Michael Pompeo. | October 7, 2018
On October 7, South Korean president Moon Jae-in met with U.S. secretary of state Michael Pompeo for a 40-minute briefing. During the meeting, Secretary Pompeo briefed President Moon on the results of the meeting with North Korean chairman Kim Jong-un. Secretary Pompeo said the U.S. and North Korea reached an agreement to hold a second U.S. – North Korea summit and the two countries exchanged ideas on denuclearization measures. In response, President Moon said he looks forward to a second U.S. – North Korea summit.

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo Visits North Korea. | October 7, 2018
On October 7, U.S. secretary of state Michael Pompeo visited North Korea to meet with North Korean chairman Kim Jong-un. In remarks to the press following the meeting, Secretary of State Pompeo said the U.S. and North Korea are “pretty close” on a second summit at that President Trump and Chairman Kim believe there is substantive progress to be made. He further stated the U.S. and North Korea will be having more frequent and higher-level working group discussions for the next summit. In terms of the verification process, Secretary Pompeo said Chairman Kim agreed international inspectors would be allowed into the Punggye-ri missile engine test site.

South Korean Delegation Visits Pyongyang for 2007 Inter-Korean Summit Anniversary. | October 4 – 6, 2018
On October 4, a South Korean delegation visited Pyongyang to celebrate the 11th anniversary of the “Declaration on the Advancement of South – North Korean Relations, Peace and Prosperity” from the 2007 inter-Korean summit. Led by Minister of Unification Cho Myung-gyon and Democratic Party leader Lee Hae-chan, the delegation of 160 people included a group of government officials, politicians, religious and civic leaders. After the delegation arrived at the airport, they were greeted by North Korean chairman of the Committee of the Peaceful Reunification of the Country Ri Son-gwon who said, “as we cannot imagine a tree without a root, the June 15, October 4, April 27 and September declarations in Pyongyang themselves … will serve as a standard for reunification.” During their three-day stay in North Korea, they will tour major facilities and attend a mass gymnastics performances. Minister of Unification Cho Myung-gyon is also expected to meet with Chairman Ri Song-gwon to discuss follow-up measures of the Pyongyang Joint Declaration of September 2018.

South Korea Holds Ceremony for Repatriation of 64 Soldiers on the 70th Armed Forces Day. | October 1, 2018
On October 1, South Korea held a ceremony for the repatriation of 64 soldiers who were killed during the Korean War on the 70th Armed Forces Day. South Korean president Moon Jae-in, Minister of National Defense Jeong Kyeong-doo, and the commander of U.S. Forces Korea General Vincent Brooks attended the ceremony at Seoul Airport in Seongnam, Gyeonggi-do Province, South Korea. The remains were found during the U.S.-North Korea joint excavation project from 1996 to 2005 in Jangjin, Hamgyeongnam-do Province, Unsan, Pyeonganbuk-do Province and Gaecheon, Pyeongannam-do Province. The U.S. retrieved the remains from North Korea between August 22 and September 7, which were then escorted by a fleet of F-15K and FA-50 fighter jets from Hawaii to Seoul Air Base on September 30. During the ceremony, President Moon presented a war medal to each of the soldier remains. After the ceremony, the remains will be sent to the Agency for KIA Recovery & Identification under the Ministry of National Defense for further identification.

Koreas Begin Work to Remove Landmines. | October 1, 2018
On October 1, South and North Korea began work to remove landmines in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) to implement the military agreement reached during the third inter-Korean summit on September 19, 2018 in Pyongyang. Aiming at reducing military tensions, the work in the Joint Security Area of Panmunjom is to last for 20 days and the UN Command (UNC) is expected to launch consultations on issues including how troops will operate following disarmament. The two Koreas also began to eliminate landmines in the Cheorwon area of the DMZ, which is set to continue until November 30, 2018.

President Trump and President Moon Hold Bilateral Meeting at UN General Assembly. | September 24, 2018
On September 24 (EST), South Korean president Moon Jae-in and U.S. president Donald Trump held a bilateral meeting during the UN General Assembly. The two leaders discussed denuclearization of North Korea, and President Moon conveyed a personal message from North Korean chairman Kim Jong-un. President Moon said that Chairman Kim “repeatedly conveyed his unwavering trust and expectations” for President Trump and that he hopes to meet President Trump “to swiftly conclude the denuclearization process.” In response, President Trump said there may be a second summit “in the not too distant future” and that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been negotiating with North Korean officials. President Moon and President Trump also signed a renegotiated U.S. – Korea Free Trade Agreement.

North Korea’s Permanent Representative to the UN Presents Credentials. | September 20, 2018
On September 20 (EST), North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations, Kim Song, presented his credentials to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Prior to this position, he was the director-general of the Department of Treaty and Law in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. At the ceremony, Mr. Kim said that he conveys warm greetings from Chairman Kim Jong-un and that he looks forward to working cooperatively with the UN. He is replacing Ja Song-nam who served until the end of July.

Third Inter-Korean Summit Held in Pyongyang. | September 18 – 20, 2018
On September 18, South Korean president Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met in Pyongyang for a third summit. When President Moon and the First Lady Kim Jung-sook arrived at Pyongyang International Airport, they were welcomed by Kim and his wife Ri Sol Ju. The two leaders’ summit, which lasted two hours, took place in the headquarters of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea. During the summit, the two leaders signed the “Pyongyang Joint Declaration of September 2018.” In the joint declaration, the leaders agreed to reduce military conflict, pursue measures to advance exchanges and cooperation, and develop their economies. Further, the two sides agreed “to hold a ground-breaking ceremony this year for the east-coast and west-coast rail and road connections” and strengthen cooperation for family reunions. North Korea also stated it would permanently dismantle the Dongchang-ri missile engine test site and launch platform to pursue denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. This is Kim’s first time hosting a summit in Pyongyang.

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 policy makers 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 greater understanding of topics and events surrounding Korean unification.

Additional Reading