Donald Kirk

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Donald Kirk is a veteran newspaper correspondent who has worked throughout East Asia and in the Middle East.

A Seoul- and Washington-based columnist for Free Press International, he has also written for the International Herald Tribune, the New York Times, USA Today, Christian Science Monitor, CBS, Asian Wall Street Journal, National Review, Chicago Sun Times, South China Morning Post and other publications.

A graduate of Princeton University, he was a Fulbright Scholar and winner of the Overseas Press Club’s George Polk Award.

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‘Axis of evil’, 18 years later

FPI / By Donald Kirk A detail generally overlooked in all we’ve been reading about the misfired Iranian missile that brought down the Ukraine airliner with 176 people aboard: It was almost certainly made in North Korea and sold to Iran or made in Iran from a North Korean design and technology. The relationship between […]

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Three reasons Kim Jong-Un is feeling the heat

FPI / January 15, 2020 By Donald Kirk The killing of Qasem Soleimani by an American drone aircraft on orders from U.S. President Donald Trump as the Iranian general arrived in Baghdad to spur on Iran-backed Iraqi militia against the U.S. confronts Kim Jong-Un with serious problems. The first is that North Korea cannot publicize […]

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Trump plays the ‘decapitation’ card; How is Kim Jong-Un sleeping?

FPI / By Donald Kirk People who split hairs over semantics ask if decapitation is the same as assassination. The debate assumes relevance in the wake of the killing of the Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. No, he wasn’t exactly decapitated, meaning his head wasn’t literally cut off from the rest of his body though probably […]

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‘Frightening’ trends in once anti-communist South Korea

FPI / December 31, 2019 By Donald Kirk From the viewpoint of a foreigner, one common denominator marks South Korea’s seismic shifts from left to right, liberal to conservative, socialist to capitalist. That is the level of authoritarianism, the threat of dictatorial rule, the demands for complete loyalty if not subservience to one particular viewpoint […]

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Before Christian missionaries reached Korea, China was there

FPI / December 22, 2019 By Donald Kirk In the first annual “Transactions” published by the venerable Korea Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society in 1900, James S. Gale, one of the early missionaries, wrote, “The more we read, the more we are forced to the conclusion that Korea was under a mesmeric spell at […]

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Nice Asian ‘co-prosperity’ summit in Busan, but where was China?

FPI / December 3, 2019 By Donald Kirk BUSAN ― Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines, had his hands in his pockets and a bored expression on his rugged face as President Moon Jae-In extolled high-tech Korean manufacturers on the big day of his summit with the leaders of 10 Southeast Asian countries. Having […]

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The Korea-Japan relationship is key to Asian geopolitics

FPI / November 11, 2019 By Donald Kirk WASHINGTON ― Koreans have innumerable reasons to resent Japan’s sense of superiority and also every reason to get over it. Astonishingly, apologists for North Korea deride U.S. attempts at persuading South Korean and Japanese leaders to get along with each other. It’s as though they really think […]

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N. Korea seeks fresh start for shuttered resort built by South

FPI / November 4, 2019 By Donald Kirk Editors’ Note: North Korea has formally proposed talks on the possible demolition of South Korean-made hotels at the North’s Mount Geumgang (diamond) Resort. The tourist facilities were built with investment from the South and closed after a South Korean tourist was shot dead for wandering off the […]

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Pro-U.S. protests baffles Seoul sophisticates

FPI / October 23, 2019 By Donald Kirk SEOUL — Americans hardly know how to respond to all those American flags seen in central Seoul on Saturday afternoons and evenings. Initially, as Korean conservatives began flying the Stars and Stripes at conservative rallies after the impeachment, ouster and jailing of Park Geun-Hye in 2016 and […]

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With Bolton’s exit, North Korea hopes for a deal

FPI / September 15, 2019 By Donald Kirk TOKYO ― Kim Jong-Un must be happy now. What could have made him feel better than for his friend President Donald Trump to dump John Bolton as national security adviser? As Trump made clear, he and Bolton disagreed on many things, notably the Middle East, Iran and […]

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Kim Jong-Un rains on Seoul leader’s peace parade

FPI / August 20, 2019 By Donald Kirk SEOUL — South Korea President Moon Jae-In’s idea of a brave new world for Korea, North and South, dissipated in storm clouds soon after he presented his vision on Aug. 15, 74th anniversary of the Japanese surrender and the end of 35 years of Japanese rule. No […]

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After G20, President Trump could visit DMZ; Will Kim jog down for a photo-op?

FPI / January 24, 2019 By Donald Kirk SEOUL — Summit fever is upon us. The mere idea of two leaders sitting down and talking suggests the ultimate panacea. Surely they can come to terms once they look each other in the eye and work out all those terrible differences. That’s the fantasy as Donald […]

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North Korea needs to apologize before any ‘peace treaty’ is signed

FPI / January 24, 2019 By Donald Kirk Advocates of a “peace treaty” with North Korea believe, unanimously, that such a treaty would serve some real purpose other than provide the North with ammunition for withdrawal of U.S. forces from South Korea and closure of U.S. bases. The slightest scrutiny of history should make painfully […]

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Transcending the politics of historic hostilities for strategic goals

FPI / June 3, 2019 By Donald Kirk WASHINGTON ― President Trump’s visit to Japan carries a message for South Korea as much as anywhere else. It’s time to call a halt to outpourings of anti-Japanese sentiment. That’s not to say South Koreans should bury their bitterness over the decades of Japanese rule, the slaughter […]

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War talk at the beach is a secondary concern in Trump-obsessed D.C.

FPI / January 24, 2019 By Donald Kirk VIRGINIA BEACH ― Memorial Day holiday crowds soak up the surf and sun while sailors and marines train for war in distant countries about which they know very little. A young Marine, bored with the routine at one of the dozen or so facilities between this sprawling […]

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