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.

North Korea’s Kim Yong-chul Visits Washington. | January 17, 2019 – January 18, 2019
On January 17, North Korea’s Kim Yong-chul arrived in Washington, D.C. He is expected to meet with Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and pay a courtesy visit to President Donald Trump.

UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in North Korea Visits Seoul. | January 7, 2019 – January 11, 2019
On January 7, Special Rapporteur on human rights in North Korea Tomas Ojea Quintana began his fifth visit to Seoul. This trip was planned in lieu of a country visit to North Korea, to which access was denied.

Kim Jong-un Visits China. | January 8, 2019 – January 9, 2019
On January 9, Kim Jong-un paid his fourth visit to China’s Xi Jinping to discuss the possible upcoming U.S.-DPRK summit as well as strengthening bilateral ties.

Inter-Korean Rail Ceremony. | December 26, 2018
On December 26, 2018, North and South Korea held a groundbreaking ceremony for the planned inter-Korean rail connection. Minister of Unification Cho Myoung-gon and Minister of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport Kim Hyun-mee traveled North to Panmun Station with around 100 other South Koreans. A number of officials reporting from Russia, China, and Mongolia as well as the Executive Secretary of the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific Armida Alisjahbana also attended the ceremony.

Koreas Hold Joint Road Survey. | December 21, 2018 – December 24, 2018
From December 21 – 23, 2018, a group of South Korean officials from the Ministry of Unification and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport joined a North Korean team to inspect a 100-kilometer section of North Korea’s Goseong-Wonsan highway for three days. On December 24, 2018, a second group left for a day-long trip to inspect a 4-kilometer section of North Korea’s Gyeongui road.

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