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.

U.N. under-secretary-general for political affairs visits Pyongyang. | December 5-8, 2017
Jeffrey Feltman, the U.N. under-secretary-general for political affairs, visited Pyongyang on a four-day trip to discuss “issues of mutual interest and concern.” U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said the visit is “broadly a policy dialogue” with North Korea. Feltman reportedly met with the North Korean Foreign Minister, Ri Yong Ho on December 7. A Dec. 4 U.N. statement indicated Jeffrey Feltman is to meet with the United Nations Country Team and members of the diplomatic corps. He is the most senior official from U.N. to have visited Pyongyang since a five-day visit in October 2011 by Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos was on a five-day visit to assess food shortages.

North Korea launches a Hwasong-15 ICBM. | November 29, 2017
North Korea launched a new type of inter-continential ballistic missile, a Hwasong-15, from Pyongsong, South Pyongan province into the sea between Korea and Japan. The missile flew for about 50 minutes and traveled approximately 940 km on a lofted trajectory. Experts assess that the missile could travel a distance of 13,000 km if fired at a standard trajectory. On November 22, predictive signals by Predata/CSIS Beyond Parallel had indicated there was an elevated likelihood of North Korean WMD activity within the following 14 to 30-day windows. Preceding the November 29 launch, the underlying 14-day predictive signal had been breaching its highest levels each day since November 15, reaching its highest level in the past 92 days on November 25 and exceeding its 30-day trailing average by 3.3 standard deviations.

U.S. Department of the Treasury announces additional sanctions. | November 21, 2017
On November 21 (EDT), the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced additional sanctions to further isolate North Korea. The announcement targeted trading, labor and shipping companies from North Korea as well as some Chinese entities.

The United States designates North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism. | November 20, 2017
Upon returning from his 12-day trip in Asia, President Trump announced at a Cabinet meeting on November 20 (EDT) that the United States is officially designating North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism. First added in 1988, North Korea had been removed from the Department of State’s list in 2008 by President George W. Bush during Six-Party Talks negotiations. President Trump said the designation would be followed by increased sanctions on North Korea.

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