Cold, hard data on North Korea is usually in short supply. However, this inconvenience hasn’t stopped researchers from coming up with novel ways to aggregate, track, and visualize the data we do have (an excellent example of this is Engage DPRK.org).
In this spirit, NK News has launched Live North Korea Ship Tracking, an interesting – and potentially very useful – interactive map application that charts the real-time paths of registered North Korean maritime vessels, along with “ships that regularly service North Korean ports and those belonging to companies that are known to trade with North Korea.”
Taking the application for a spin is intuitive, with options to filter by passenger, cargo, tanker, and other types of vessels. There are some constraints, however: vessels only appear when they are in coastal regions (though NK News reports further updates may allow tracking on the high seas), and of course DPRK ships flying foreign “flags of convenience” cannot be tracked unless they’ve already been unmasked by the UN Security Council.
One obvious use of Live North Korea Ship Tracking is in security-related research, with NK News citing the ability to discern “anomalous activities” similar to what got the Chong Chon Gang in a whole sugary heap of trouble. Or one can easily apply this in studying real time cross-border trade relations. (Perhaps not surprisingly, you will immediately notice the high concentration of maritime activity with Chinese ports in the Korean Bay and Yellow Sea.) Either way,kudos to NK News for making the data nerd in all of us giddy.