Remembering Don Oberdorfer


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Don Oberdorfer, Diplomatic Correspondent and Chairman Emeritus, US-Korea Institute, Dies at 84

Don OberdorferDon Oberdorfer, 84, Chairman Emeritus of the US-Korea Institute (USKI) at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, died July 23 in Washington, DC.

Oberdorfer graduated from Princeton University and went to South Korea as a U.S. Army lieutenant during the Korean War. He started his career in journalism with The Charlotte Observer, The Saturday Evening Post, and Knight Newspapers before working for The Washington Post.  During his twenty five years with The Washington Post, he served as a White House, Northeast Asia, and diplomatic correspondent. Oberdorfer has authored several books and is celebrated as an expert in Asian Affairs.

In a statement, USKI chairman Stephen Bosworth lauded Oberdofer’s legacy as a great thinker in Asian affairs.

“Don Oberdorfer was a giant among American journalists covering Asia in the second half of the 20th century. Don covered virtually every major development in the region from the Vietnam War to the People Power revolution in the Philippines and the growth of democracy in Korea. His book, The Two Koreas is the essential work for anyone trying to understand the contemporary history of the Korean Peninsula.”

After retiring from The Washington Post in 1993, Oberdorfer was appointed Distinguished Journalist in Residence by George R. Packard, former dean of Johns Hopkins SAIS. In addition to teaching a popular and well-received course on News Media in International Affairs, Oberdorfer was instrumental in the launch of the US-Korea Institute and in 2006 was appointed Chairman.

“He was the founding Chairman of the US-Korea Institute which has become a leading academic center at SAIS focused on research and teaching about Korea. Don Oberdorfer will be much missed,” said Bosworth.

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Don OberdorferWe are deeply saddened at the passing of our Chairman Emeritus and good friend Don Oberdorfer.

Our deepest sympathies to Laura and the Oberdorfer family.

In the words of our Director, Jae Ku:

“Don’s understanding of Korea was unparalleled. He not only understood but had internalized Korea’s geostrategic predicament and the Korean people’s sentiments. His deep knowledge of Korea came from his own eyewitness accounts of modern Korean development. Simply put, Don was Korea’s best friend.”

We will miss Don dearly, but his legacy and wisdom will live on.

Washington Post: Don Oberdorfer, longtime diplomatic correspondent for The Post, dies at 84