Fellow Spotlight

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Dan Mitchum (USA) has spent the last 12 years living and working in South Korea. He holds a dual BA in Global Politics and East Asian Studies from State University of New York, Albany and an MA in International Cooperation from Yonsei University’s Graduate School of International Studies, Seoul. The majority of Daniel’s master’s research was focused on North Korea, culminating in his thesis which explored the embeddedness of nuclear weapons within the DPRK regime. Daniel has previously worked with organizations such as Liberty in North Korea to aid North Korean refugees in acculturation, the North Korea Review academic journal as a blog writer and copy editor, as well as World Vision Korea as an assistant in HIV/AIDS awareness outreach. Beyond the Korean peninsula, Daniel’s research interests include East Asian geopolitics, the rise of China, and America’s East Asian alliance system.

We asked Dan a few questions about himself and his fellowship experience.

What are your research interests?

I’m currently the James Kelly Korea Fellow, so my main research interests are the Korean peninsula, inter-Korean relations, and nuclear proliferation. However, I’m also interested in the rise of China, America’s East Asia alliances systems, and Russian history.

How did you hear about Pacific Forum and why did you apply to become a fellow?

I honestly can’t remember where I heard about Pacific Forum. I think I literally ran a search on Google for ‘South Korea research’ and it came up. I had recently finished my master’s degree and was living in South Korea when COVID hit. Like pretty much everyone, it put a serious damper on my plans and I had to start thinking of ways to keep moving forward. It looked like a great opportunity because it perfectly matches my research interests and experience. Needless to say, I applied immediately.

Briefly describe the research project you are undertaking as a Pacific Forum fellow:

My biggest research project thus far has covered the controversy of China implementing unofficial sanctions on South Korea for its deployment of the THAAD missile system. I was living in South Korea when this all took place, so I thought it would make for an interesting topic. I’m also working on a project now about how North Korea’s perceptions of power have influenced nonproliferation negotiations.

Describe a Pacific Forum conference you attended and how it helped you in your career:

Honestly, there’s almost too many to name. I really enjoyed the Honolulu International Form with Anton Khlopkov. At the time I had been expanding my knowledge on Russian-North Korea relations so it provided me with a wealth of knowledge from an expert in the field. Additionally, and while they’re not Pacific Forum events exactly, all of the CSCAP conferences have been a huge help. These meetings typically draw representatives from China, Japan, South Korea, and the US so it provided me with unparalleled opportunity to hear different perspectives and visions for security in East Asia and the Indo-Pacific at large.

Share something you read recently that you enjoyed:

I just finished Salt, Acid, Fat, Heat. I consider myself a pretty accomplished chef and have been cooking since I was in middle school. However, I’m self-taught and have never sat down and seriously studied it. Someone mentioned to me how good the show was but I figured why not just go straight to the source. This book had a ton of information and tips I’d never thought of before. It has definitely upped my cooking game!

What are your future plans?

My next step is heading to New Zealand to complete my PhD in International Security and Cooperation. Having just spent the last 4 months in Honolulu, it seems I’m destined for island life again. I really enjoy conducting research so this is a great opportunity, but I love teaching even more so hopefully someday I’ll become a university professor.

What is a fun fact about you?

I grew up in the Northeastern US surrounded by ski mountains. The closest mountain from my house was about a 10-minute drive. I’d even worked at a ski resort as a seasonal employee. But I’ve never once gone skiing. I hate the cold too much to spend that long outside in the winter.


Dan’s recent publications:

Daniel Mitchum, “What’s driving South Korean voter apathy?,” Asia Times, February 21, 2022.
Daniel Mitchum, “More Harm than Good: Why Chinese Sanctions over THAAD have Backfired,” Issues & Insights 21 (2021).
Daniel Mitchum, “Kim Jong Un’s Failures Could be Washington’s Gain,” PacNet, July 22, 2021.
Daniel Mitchum, “Modern Misconceptions of North Korea,” North Korea Review Journal Blog, November 21, 2017.


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Fellows previously featured in Fellow Spotlight:

Su Hyun Lee

Jennifer Howe

Eugenio Benincasa

Shwe Yee Oo

Elliot Silverberg

Dong-hyeon Kim