Surmounting the Impasse

Signals show momentum for diplomatic progress may be building in Korea


Since the late February Hanoi summit between President Trump and Chairman Kim ended in impasse, negotiations on the Korean peninsula have reportedly been stalled. Two Predata signals show that momentum for renewed diplomatic engagement may be building, however.

First, Korean online interest in North Korea’s economy is surging. Activity on Korean-language web pages related to special economic zones, infrastructure, and other features of the North’s economy is the highest it has been since the lead-up to an inter-Korean summit in 2018. As the chart below shows, the signal tends to rise ahead of high-level negotiations -- periods when the attention of South Korean observers is drawn to the possibility of greater economic cooperation and opportunity on the peninsula.


Second, as another indication that Koreans are anticipating a break from the status quo, a signal that tracks Korean-language online interest in past regime change events from around the globe has risen to its highest level since the first summit between Chairman Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in held in April 2018. Attention to past regime change events -- e.g. the fall of Saddam Hussein, the collapse of the Soviet Union -- is a sign that Koreans are contemplating the future of the North Korean state.


These signals point to mounting interest on the Korean peninsula in the possibility of changes to the status quo. In this sense, conditions are conducive for further diplomacy. Whether progress occurs is, of course, up to the leaders.