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 Military Communication Line Restored. | August 15, 2018
On August 15, North and South Korea fully restored the military communication line along the eastern part of the Korean peninsula which had been severed by a wildfire in 2010. The western communication line was fully restored on July 16 which was disconnected when the South Korean government shut down the Kaesong Industrial Complex in 2016. The restoration of fax and phone connections was part of an agreement from the inter-Korean general-grade military talks on June 14.

Inter-Korean High-Level Talks Held at Panmunjom. | August 13, 2018
On August 13, delegates from North and South Korea met at Panmunjom. They agreed to hold an inter-Korean summit in September in Pyongyang, which will mark the third of its kind between South Korean president Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un following their meetings on April 27 and May 26. The talks were attended by Minister of Unification Cho Myoung-Gyon of South Korea and Chairman of the Committee of the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland Ri Son-gwon of North Korea.

North and South Korea Conduct Joint Inspection of Road Conditions. | August 10 – 30, 2018
From August 10 to August 30, North and South Korea will conduct joint on-site road examinations in their western region and on the east coast. The joint road condition inspections are in response to the commitment promised during the April inter-Korean summit to expand cross-border exchanges and contacts.

North and South Korea Hold Inter-Korean Railway Meeting. | August 9, 2018
On August 9, 6 South Korean officials led by Sung-kyu Hwang, Director of Railway at the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, and 6 North Korean officials led by Chang-sik Kim, Deputy-Director of the Korean State Railway, held a meeting at the Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) office in Paju, South Korea. They discussed ways to modernize and reconnect railways across the inter-Korean border. This meeting follows the July 24 joint survey of North Korean railway conditions.

South Korean Officials Visit North Korea for Joint Forest Inspection. | August 8, 2018
On August 8, 12 South Korean officials led by Sang Seop Lim, Director of the Korea Forest Service, and 10 North Korean officials conducted a joint inspection of forests. During the meeting, the officials of both countries reaffirmed their desire to protect forests from harmful insects and diseases along the inter-Korean border. This joint inspection resulted from the agreement reached during the Inter-Korean Forestry Cooperation Talks on July 4.

Honorable Carry Ceremony Held for Repatriated Fallen U.S. Soldiers. | August 1, 2018
On August 1 (HST), the U.S. held an Honorable Carry ceremony to honor 55 fallen Korean War heroes repatriated from North Korea. Vice President Mike Pence participated in the ceremony and gave remarks honoring the fallen. He also remarked that President Trump “secured a promise from Chairman Kim to return the remains of all fallen U.S. service members lost in North Korea” and that the U.S. is seeing tangible progress in achieving peace on the Korean peninsula.

North Korea Repatriates Remains of Fallen U.S. Soldiers. | July 26, 2018
On July 26, North Korea repatriated the remains of some U.S. service members who were killed during the Korean War, the 65th anniversary of the armistice of the Korean War. The White House officially welcomed North Korea’s action as “the momentum for positive change.” This repatriation came pursuant to an agreement between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and President Trump at the June 12 summit in Singapore. A formal repatriation ceremony is scheduled to take place at Osan Air Base on August 1.

North Korea Begins to Dismantle Sohae Satellite Launching Station. | July 25, 2018
On July 25, President Moon Jae-in of South Korea officially affirmed that North Korea began to dismantle its Sohae Satellite Launching Station. Located in Dongchang-ri, Pyeonganbuk-do Province, the Sohae Satellite Launching Station has been one of the major North Korea facilities for developing intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) since 2012. The station includes a missile engine test site that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un promised to take down during his meeting with President Trump in Singapore on June 12.

North and South Korea Hold Joint Railway Inspection. | July 24, 2018
On July 24, North and South Korean officials conducted a joint railway inspection of the Gyeongui Line from Kaesong Station to the military demarcation line (MDL). The 15-member South Korean delegation was led by Hwang Sung-gyu, a senior official of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, while the six-member North Korean delegation was led by Kim Chang-sik, the deputy director of the Korean State Railway. Throughout the joint inspection, the two delegations discussed ways to modernize and reconnect railways along the eastern and western regions of the Korean Peninsula. The joint inspection was then followed by a meeting in Kaesong.

U.S. Issues North Korea Sanctions and Enforcement Actions Advisory. | July 23, 2018
On July 23 (EST), the U.S. Department of State, Department of the Treasury, and Department of Homeland Security jointly issued a North Korea Sanctions and Enforcement Actions Advisory. In the advisory, the U.S. government departments highlighted sanctions evasions tactics used by North Korea that could expose businesses to sanctions compliance risks under U.S. and/or United Nations sanctions authorities. The advisory also pointed out that both inadvertent sourcing of goods, services, or technology from North Korea and the presence of North Korean citizens or nationals in companies’ supply chains violate the U.S. and UN sanctions against North Korea.

 General-Level Talks Between the U.S. and North Korea on the Repatriation of Remains. | July 15, 2018
On July 15, the U.S. and North Korea held general-level talks at Panmunjom on the repatriation of Korean War service members. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the U.S. and North Korea agreed to recommence field operations in North Korea to search for the estimated 5,300 Americans who never returned home. On Monday, June 16, the U.S. and North Korea will begin their working level meetings to ‎coordinate the next steps, including the transfer of remains already collected in North Korea. This is the first general-grade meeting in more than nine years at the truce village of Panmunjom.

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