Book Launch | King of Spies: The Dark Reign of America’s Spymaster in Korea | Wilson Center
6th Floor, Woodrow Wilson Center

The Woodrow Wilson Center’s History and Public Policy Program welcomes New York Times bestselling author Blaine Harden for a book launch discussion of King of Spies, The Dark Reign of America’s Spymaster in Korea, an untold story of one of the most powerful spies in American history, who’s hidden work was key to U.S. military engagement in the Korean War, and its historical legacy today.

King of Spies is the story of U.S. Air Force Major Donald Nichols, an intelligence agent who operated in Korea for 11 secret years with his own army of spies, his own base, and his own murderous rules. Though he lacked the pedigree of most U.S. spies—Nichols was a 7th grade dropout—he quickly became a black ops phenomenon. He insinuated himself into the affections of America’s chosen puppet in South Korea, President Syngman Rhee, and became a pivotal player in the Korean War, warning months in advance about the North Korean invasion, breaking enemy codes, and identifying most of the targets destroyed by American bombs in North Korea.

The groundbreaking work of narrative history sheds new and disturbing light on the U.S. role in the Korean War. More importantly, it explains—at a time when North Korea is threatening the U.S. with long-range nuclear missiles—the origins of an intractable foreign policy mess.


Books will be available onsite for purchase and signing. 



  • Christian F. Ostermann

    Director, History and Public Policy Program; Cold War International History Project; North Korea Documentation Project; Nuclear Proliferation International History Project
    Woodrow Wilson Center


  • Blaine Harden

    Journalist, and former Tokyo bureau chief for The Washington Post
  • Patrick McEachern

    Public Policy Fellow
    Deputy Chief, Foreign Policy and Bilateral Affairs Unit, U.S. Embassy Tokyo - ‎U.S. Embassy in Tokyo; Former North Korea Analyst, U.S. State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research