Sung-Yoon Lee

Sung-Yoon Lee

Cabot 501
160 Packard Avenue, Medford, MA 02155
Research/Areas of Interest:

Political philosophy; Democracy; Confucianism; U.S. - East Asia Relations; North Korea; South Korea


  • Ph.D., The Fletcher School, Tufts University
  • MALD, The Fletcher School, Tufts University
  • B.A., New College


Sung-Yoon Lee, Kim Koo-Korea Foundation Professor of Korean Studies and Assistant Professor, teaches courses on Korea and U.S.-East Asia relations. He is a former research fellow with the National Asia Research Program, a joint initiative by the National Bureau of Asia Research and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and former associate in research at the Korea Institute, Harvard University.

In 2005, he launched at Harvard's Korea Institute a new seminar series, the Kim Koo Forum on U.S.–Korea Relations. He has taught courses on Korean political history at Bowdoin College (2000), Sogang University (2007), and Seoul National University (2012-2015). His opeds have been published multiple times in The Hill, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs, Asia Times, etc. Lee is a frequent commentator on major international broadcast networks, including BBC, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, PRI, etc., and has testified as an expert witness at U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee hearings on North Korea policy. In 2013, the Guardian called Lee "[a]mong the most insightful and prescient chroniclers."

Areas of expertise

History & Diplomacy
Human Rights
Humanitarian Affairs
International Security

Professional Activities

  • Adjunct Assistant Professor of International Politics, The Fletcher School (1998-2005)
  • Visiting Assistant Professor of History, Tufts University (2000-2005)
  • Kim Koo Research Associate (2005-2006), and Associate in Research (1999-present), Korea Institute, Harvard University
  • Visiting Professor of Korean Studies, Sogang University (Summer, 2007)
  • Adjunct Assistant Professor of Asian Studies, Bowdoin College (Spring, 2000)

Courses taught

Selected Publications and Presentations


"Getting Tough on North Korea," Foreign Affairs, May/June Issues, 2017.

"How Trump Can Get Tough on North Korea," Foreign Affairs, January 18. 2017.

"North Korea's Next Dare," Foreign Affairs, September 14, 2015.

"The Boy Who Would Be King," NBR Expert Brief, National Bureau of Asia Research, December 28, 2011.

"The Pyongyang Playbook," Foreign Affairs, August 26, 2010.

"Life After Kim: Planning for a Post-Kim Jong Il Korea," Foreign Policy, February 16, 2010.

"Ain't No Sunshine," Foreign Policy, August 24, 2009.

"Target Pyongyang's Palace Economy," The Far Eastern Economic Review, July 20, 2009.

Sung-Yoon Lee, "The United States Should Make North Korean Human Rights a Priority," in Louise Gerdes, ed., Opposing Viewpoints: North Korea and South Korea (Farmington Hills, MI: Greenhaven Press, 2007).

"The Folly of Fabled Sentimentality: South Korea's Unorthodox Courtship of North Korea," The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Special Report, November, 2006.

"Dependence and Defiance: Historical Dilemmas in U.S.-Korea Relations," Korea Policy Review, The John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Summer 2006

"The Mythical Nuclear Kingdom of North Korea," The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs (Summer/Fall 2005), Vol. 29:2.

"Nuclear Diplomacy vis-à-vis the DPRK: A Dead-End Street," The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs (Summer/Fall 2003), Vol. 27: 2.


"Forgotten Borders: Japan's Maritime Operations in the Korean War and Implications for North Korea," in Geoffrey f. Gresh, ed., Eurasia's Maritime Rise and Global Security: From the Indian Ocean to Pacific Asia and the Arctic (Palgrave, 2018)


"Meet Kim Jong Un, the Korean G.O.A.T." The Hill, May 16, 2018.

"A Korean comedy of errors," The Hill, April 27, 2018.

"Kim Jong Un's weaponization of weirdness," The Hill, April 2, 2018.

"Kim Jong Un's killer Trump trap," The Hill, March 12, 2018.

"Kim Jong Un: The greatest showman," The Hill, February 6, 2018.

"Pyongyang's provocative propagandists," The Hill, February 26, 2018.

"Dear America: Don't fall for Pyongyang's predictable, poisonous ploy," The Hill, January 4, 2018.

"Sex and the City: The 'Pyongyang Games'," The Hill, January 23, 2018.

"Why won't the U.S. use its full sanction power against North Korea?" The Los Angeles Times, September 8, 2017.

"The Way to Make North Korea Back Down," The New York Times, September 6, 2017.

"Why Do We Appease North Korea?" The New York Times, May 17, 2017.

"Negotiation without sanctions is appeasement," The Washington Post, October 9, 2016.

"Pyongyang's Hunger Games," The New York Times, March 7, 2014.

"Luxury cars and cognac for...North Korea?," CNN, October 28, 2014.

"North Korea's finances should be targeted over nuclear tests," The Washington Post, February 12, 2013.

"Why North Korea's Rocket Mattered," The New York Times, April 13, 2012.

"Pyongyang's Latest Ploy," Wall Street Journal Asia, March 25, 2012.

"North Korea's Carrot-and Stick Strategy," The Los Angeles Times, August 5, 2011.

"Containing the Young Kim," Wall Street Journal (US and Asia editions), December 21, 2011.

"The Winter of Kim Jong-il's Discontent," The Christian Science Monitor, January 5, 2011.

"In North Korea, Peace is War," Asia Times Online, August 13, 2010.

"U.S. Misses History Lesson on Korea," Asia Times Online, July 2, 2010.

"Take Advantage of Kim's Bad Timing," Wall Street Journal Asia, June 5, 2010.

"A Three-Handed Approach to Pyongyang," Asia Times Online, December 17, 2010.

"Keeping the Peace: America in Korea, 1950-2010," Imprimus, December 2010.

"Hitting North Korea," The Los Angeles Times, November 30, 2010.

"Pyongyang Home Truths: Does Hillary Clinton understand the North Korean regime and how to deal with it?" Wall Street Journal Asia, February 13, 2009.