Donald Kirk

Donald Kirk

Donald Kirk is an author and journalist from Washington, D.C., and travels to South Korea, with stops in London, India, Pakistan, the Middle East, Japan, Hong Kong and the Philippines, among other places, writing on the confrontation of forces in the post-September 11 era. He was the Seoul correspondent for the International Herald Tribune from 1997 to 2003. Before gravitating to Northeast Asia, he covered much of the Vietnam War for the Chicago Tribune and the Washington Star. He has also written books on Korea, notably Korea Betrayed: Kim Dae Jung and Sunshine and Korean Dynasty: Hyundai and Chung Ju Yung.

Latest from Donald Kirk

Opinion | The missile threat the world needs to worry about is not from North Korea, but Russia and Japan

For all its tests, North Korea can’t risk firing missiles for real. However, the US has made the world a more dangerous place by killing a missile treaty with Russia and intending to deploy more missiles in Asia.

15 Aug 2019 - 8:17PM

For all its tests, North Korea can’t risk firing missiles for real. However, the US has made the world a more dangerous place by killing a missile treaty with Russia and intending to deploy more missiles in Asia.

The missile threat the world needs to worry about is not from North Korea, but Russia and Japan
Opinion | North Korea is the only winner when South Korea and Japan spar over historical issues

A court case triggered the latest row between the East Asian democracies, but decades of animosity have contributed. The two sides should remember all that unites them, however, and that an escalating dispute means neither wins.

17 Jul 2019 - 7:41PM

A court case triggered the latest row between the East Asian democracies, but decades of animosity have contributed. The two sides should remember all that unites them, however, and that an escalating dispute means neither wins.

North Korea is the only winner when South Korea and Japan spar over historical issues
Opinion | South Korea’s proposed anti-corruption unit is a thinly disguised power grab for Moon Jae-in – and it won’t work

If Moon can create a special new agency to investigate corruption, we can expect him to use it against his political opponents, who have been emboldened by his failing diplomatic and domestic policies.

3 May 2019 - 5:18PM

If Moon can create a special new agency to investigate corruption, we can expect him to use it against his political opponents, who have been emboldened by his failing diplomatic and domestic policies.

South Korea’s proposed anti-corruption unit is a thinly disguised power grab for Moon Jae-in – and it won’t work
Opinion | Moon Jae-in’s problem: his mode of North Korean diplomacy is incompatible with South Korean democracy

The South Korean leader’s strategy for bringing North Korea to negotiations has included silence on Kim Jong-un’s ruthlessness and rights abuses, which could jeopardise South Koreans’ hard-won rights.

18 Apr 2019 - 10:40AM

The South Korean leader’s strategy for bringing North Korea to negotiations has included silence on Kim Jong-un’s ruthlessness and rights abuses, which could jeopardise South Koreans’ hard-won rights.

Moon Jae-in’s problem: his mode of North Korean diplomacy is incompatible with South Korean democracy
Opinion | South Korea’s Moon Jae-in may be the biggest loser of the Trump-Kim summit flop

With opposition mounting at home and sanctions still blocking inter-Korean cooperation, the relative calm on the peninsula may be small consolation for Moon Jae-in.

1 Mar 2019 - 10:38PM

With opposition mounting at home and sanctions still blocking inter-Korean cooperation, the relative calm on the peninsula may be small consolation for Moon Jae-in.

South Korea’s Moon Jae-in may be the biggest loser of the Trump-Kim summit flop
Opinion | If communist Vietnam can thrive on capitalist enterprise, why not North Korea?

Aside from a meeting with Donald Trump, Kim Jong-un’s trip to Hanoi may open his eyes to the possibility of unleashing the entrepreneurial spirit in a tightly controlled society, at no risk to his grip on power.

15 Feb 2019 - 11:07AM

Aside from a meeting with Donald Trump, Kim Jong-un’s trip to Hanoi may open his eyes to the possibility of unleashing the entrepreneurial spirit in a tightly controlled society, at no risk to his grip on power.

If communist Vietnam can thrive on capitalist enterprise, why not North Korea?
Opinion | As China feuds with the US, don’t expect it to encourage better behaviour from North Korea

Despite hopes that China will encourage Kim Jong-un to seek a detente, what Beijing really wants is to make life difficult for Washington as the trade war and Huawei case drag on.

6 Feb 2019 - 8:26AM

Despite hopes that China will encourage Kim Jong-un to seek a detente, what Beijing really wants is to make life difficult for Washington as the trade war and Huawei case drag on.

As China feuds with the US, don’t expect it to encourage better behaviour from North Korea
Opinion | A second Donald Trump-Kim Jong-un summit? They don’t even agree on what the first one meant

North Korea and the US may not agree on what ‘denuclearise’ means, but is there harm in meeting again? The answer is yes, actually, if these summits give the impression that diplomacy has been tried and did not work.

7 Dec 2018 - 6:27AM

North Korea and the US may not agree on what ‘denuclearise’ means, but is there harm in meeting again? The answer is yes, actually, if these summits give the impression that diplomacy has been tried and did not work.

A second Donald Trump-Kim Jong-un summit? They don’t even agree on what the first one meant
North Korea plays the cruellest game with family reunions
Will North Korea’s return of soldiers’ remains buy a US exit from the Korean peninsula?

North Korea has used US soldiers’ remains as a moneymaking scheme in the past, and now may be after a bigger payoff – a peace declaration and exit of US troops from the Korean peninsula

20 Jul 2018 - 10:30PM

North Korea has used US soldiers’ remains as a moneymaking scheme in the past, and now may be after a bigger payoff – a peace declaration and exit of US troops from the Korean peninsula

Will North Korea’s return of soldiers’ remains buy a US exit from the Korean peninsula?
From trade war to third world war? From Korea to the South China Sea, Trump’s tariffs risk escalation

US trade deficits make Trump’s aggressive strategy understandable, but China’s reliance on the US market has played a major role in keeping disputes – particularly over territorial waters – under control. As Trump hinders access, that could change

11 Jul 2018 - 3:29PM

US trade deficits make Trump’s aggressive strategy understandable, but China’s reliance on the US market has played a major role in keeping disputes – particularly over territorial waters – under control. As Trump hinders access, that could change

From trade war to third world war? From Korea to the South China Sea, Trump’s tariffs risk escalation
How Donald Trump sold out South Korea while furthering Kim Jong-un’s dream of domination

Donald Trump has raised false of hopes of Korean reunification but Kim Jong-un’s agenda cannot coincide with democracy.

28 Jun 2018 - 8:11PM

Donald Trump has raised false of hopes of Korean reunification but Kim Jong-un’s agenda cannot coincide with democracy.

How Donald Trump sold out South Korea while furthering Kim Jong-un’s dream of domination
Trump hands Xi Jinping a win in Singapore – and may have handed all of Asia to China

The US president may have earned his ‘dotard’ nickname in Singapore by signalling interest in reducing America’s military presence in East Asia, leaving China free to pursue its dreams of regional – and continental – dominance.

19 Jun 2018 - 6:40PM

The US president may have earned his ‘dotard’ nickname in Singapore by signalling interest in reducing America’s military presence in East Asia, leaving China free to pursue its dreams of regional – and continental – dominance.

Trump hands Xi Jinping a win in Singapore – and may have handed all of Asia to China
US-North Korea talks have many obstacles to overcome – starting with where to meet

The first hurdle in preparing the US-North Korea summit is the US’ unwillingness to meet Kim Jong-un on his home turf in Pyongyang, but a compromise there only means moving on to thornier issues, like North Korea’s definition of ‘denuclearise’ and American unwillingness to withdraw from South Korea.

11 Apr 2018 - 10:24AM

The first hurdle in preparing the US-North Korea summit is the US’ unwillingness to meet Kim Jong-un on his home turf in Pyongyang, but a compromise there only means moving on to thornier issues, like North Korea’s definition of ‘denuclearise’ and American unwillingness to withdraw from South Korea.

US-North Korea talks have many obstacles to overcome – starting with where to meet
The real reasons behind Xi Jinping’s meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un

A looming trade war with the US, Japan’s shift to the right under Abe, and the continuing challenges to China’s geopolitical position in the region are all part of the calculations that convinced Xi a meeting was necessary.

28 Mar 2018 - 3:10PM

A looming trade war with the US, Japan’s shift to the right under Abe, and the continuing challenges to China’s geopolitical position in the region are all part of the calculations that convinced Xi a meeting was necessary.

The real reasons behind Xi Jinping’s meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un
Why South Korea’s Olympic overtures to Kim Jong-un will misfire in the long run

By capitulating to most of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s demands before the Olympics, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in has sent the message that he is all too willing to compromise.

21 Feb 2018 - 7:12PM

By capitulating to most of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s demands before the Olympics, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in has sent the message that he is all too willing to compromise.

Why South Korea’s Olympic overtures to Kim Jong-un will misfire in the long run
The Olympics returns to South Korea 30 years on – and so do the protests

Reflecting on the history of the Olympics in Korea, the differences are apparent between the 2018 Winter Games and the 1988 Summer Olympics – today, the demonstrations are against North Korea, and the North can do much more than blow up airliners

7 Feb 2018 - 5:37PM

Reflecting on the history of the Olympics in Korea, the differences are apparent between the 2018 Winter Games and the 1988 Summer Olympics – today, the demonstrations are against North Korea, and the North can do much more than blow up airliners

The Olympics returns to South Korea 30 years on – and so do the protests
What South Korea is risking in Winter Olympics diplomacy with nuclear North Korea and Kim Jong-un
Trump and Tillerson play word games on talks with North Korea
What next from Kim Jong-un, as Trump piles on the pressure over North Korea’s nuclear programme?
Donald Trump’s Asia trek through Japan, South Korea and China will test the art of his deals

The US president faces several difficult tasks as he meets leaders in Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing, not least of which will be keeping the pressure on North Korea while easing China’s concerns about THAAD.

20 Jul 2018 - 2:55PM

The US president faces several difficult tasks as he meets leaders in Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing, not least of which will be keeping the pressure on North Korea while easing China’s concerns about THAAD.

Donald Trump’s Asia trek through Japan, South Korea and China will test the art of his deals
200 reasons why North Korea declaring war is nothing new
Trump’s threats at UN to ‘totally destroy’ North Korea demonstrate little relationship with reality

Donald Trump’s over-the-top declaration can’t hide the fact that military action against the North would be deeply unpopular at home, costly and opposed by North Korea’s neighbours

20 Jul 2018 - 2:55PM

Donald Trump’s over-the-top declaration can’t hide the fact that military action against the North would be deeply unpopular at home, costly and opposed by North Korea’s neighbours

Trump’s threats at UN to ‘totally destroy’ North Korea demonstrate little relationship with reality
Why Samsung heir’s jailing will do little to dent its smartphone profits, in the short term at least
Can South Korea’s Moon Jae-in find a path to reconciliation with North Korea?

Donald Kirk considers the dilemma confronting the South Korean president, as he seeks to balance a need for US protection with his wish for reconciliation

20 Jul 2018 - 2:55PM

Donald Kirk considers the dilemma confronting the South Korean president, as he seeks to balance a need for US protection with his wish for reconciliation

Can South Korea’s Moon Jae-in find a path to reconciliation with North Korea?
Can America survive the era of Trump family values?
Otto Warmbier’s death brings to light the brutality of North Korean dynastic rule
How North Korea’s nuclear weapons are testing Seoul’s special ties with the US
Can South Korea’s new president Moon Jae-in find the right balance on N Korea and domestic policies?
Why pacifist Japan is standing by its old friend America in naval power play