Jean H. Lee is an award-winning, Pulitzer Prize-nominated writer, commentator and expert on North Korea who serves as Director of the Hyundai Motor-Korea Foundation Center for Korean History and Public Policy at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
A longtime journalist, Lee led the Associated Press news agency’s coverage of the Korean Peninsula as bureau chief from 2008 to 2013. In 2011, she became the first American reporter granted extensive access on the ground in North Korea, and in January 2012, she opened AP’s Pyongyang bureau.
As a journalist, Lee made dozens of extended reporting trips to North Korea, visiting farms, factories, schools, military academies and homes in the course of her exclusive coverage across the country.
During Lee's tenure, AP’s coverage of Kim Jong Il’s 2011 death earned an honorable mention in the deadline reporting category of the 2012 Associated Press Media Editors awards for journalism in the United States and Canada. Lee also won an Online Journalism Award in 2013 for her role in using photography, video and social media in North Korea, and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in feature reporting in 2013.
Lee is a native of Minneapolis. She has a bachelor's degree in East Asian Studies and English literature from Columbia University, and a master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
She worked as a reporter for the Korea Herald in Seoul, South Korea, before being posted with AP to the news agency's bureaus in Baltimore; Fresno, Calif.; San Francisco; New York; London; Seoul, South Korea, and Pyongyang, North Korea.
While on sabbatical from AP in 2014, Lee carried out reporting and research as a fellow with the Alicia Patterson Foundation. After leaving AP, she served as a Public Policy Fellow with the Wilson Center in 2015 and a Global Fellow with the DC-based think tank from 2016-2018. Lee has taught courses in North Korean studies at Yonsei University's Underwood International College and at Korea University's Graduate School of International Studies, both in Seoul.
Lee appears frequently on CNN, NPR, BBC, CBS News, PBS Newshour, PRI and other media outlets as a commentator on Korea-related topics. She is a contributor to the New York Times and Esquire magazine, among other publications, and has been invited to speak at the Aspen Security Forum, SXSW, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Brookings Institution, the Korea Society, the Asia New Zealand Foundation and by other think tanks.