Donald Gregg

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This page is about the politician, not the researcher Donald N. Gregg
For the Australian cricketer, see Donald Gregg (cricketer).
Donald Gregg
United States Ambassador to South Korea
In office
September 27, 1989[1] – February 27, 1993 [1]
President George H.W. Bush
Bill Clinton
Preceded by James R. Lilley
Succeeded by James T. Laney
Personal details
Born Donald Phinney Gregg
(1927-12-05) December 5, 1927 (age 89)[2]

Donald Phinney Gregg (born December 5, 1927) is a retired American politician, CIA employee, and U.S. Ambassador to South Korea. Gregg worked for the Central Intelligence Agency for 31 years, from 1951 to 1982. He was a National Security Council advisor (1979–1982) and National Security Advisor to U.S. Vice President George H. W. Bush (1982–1989), United States Ambassador to Korea (1989–1993), and the chairman of the board of The Korea Society (until 2009), where he called for greater engagement with North Korea.

Background and family life[edit]

After graduating from high school he enlisted in the military in 1945 and received training as a cryptanalyst, but did not finish in time to be posted overseas.[2] He then attended Williams College, in Williamstown, Massachusetts, from 1947 to 1951, majoring in philosophy.[2] Here he was recruited by the CIA.[2]

Gregg's father was Abel J. Gregg of Washington, the national secretary of boys' work of the Young Men's Christian Association. His wife was Margaret Curry. Their daughter Lucy Steuart Gregg married the writer Christopher Buckley, the son of the celebrated conservative journalist and author William F. Buckley, Jr.[3][4] His nephew is Adam Curry.


Gregg joined the Central Intelligence Agency in 1951. He served in Japan from 1964 to 1973.[2]

Gregg served as CIA station chief in South Korea from 1973 to 1975, an assignment he personally requested.[2] During this time Gregg's personal complaint to the head of the presidential protective force about the Korean National Intelligence Service's involvement in the death by torture of a dissident U.S.-trained professor led to its chief, Lee Hu-rak, being replaced, and his successor enacting a prohibition on torture.[2] Gregg, noting that his boss, Ted Shackley, had warned him against such interference, later described this as "one of the best things I did as a CIA officer".[2]

From 1975 to 1980, Gregg served at the CIA's headquarters and in Washington, D.C.; his responsibilities included responding to the "Pike Committee" investigating the CIA.[2] In 1979 Gregg, his career in the CIA stalled by Stansfield Turner's new regime, took a post in the United States National Security Council (NSC) as Asia policy and intelligence matters specialist. He remained there during the transition from the Carter administration to the Reagan administration, and became Director of the NSC's Intelligence Directorate in 1981. He was appointed National Security Advisor to Vice President George H. W. Bush in August 1982, resigning from the CIA at this time. He remained National Security Advisor for the remainder of the Reagan administration.[2][5]


A friend and associate of Bush, Gregg was involved with the Iran-Contra scandal from the inception. On March 17, 1983, Felix Rodriguez met with Gregg at the White House and presented his five-page proposal for the creation of a "Tactical Task Force" for the "pacification" efforts in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. Gregg then recommended Rodriguez' plan to National Security Council adviser Robert McFarlane, with a secret one-page memo on "anti-guerrilla operations in Central America". This marked the beginning of U.S. support for the Nicaraguan contras. In June 1985, Gregg met with Rodriguez and U.S. Army Col. Jim Steele of the U.S. Military Group in El Salvador during the height of the guerrilla war.[6] In December 1985 Rodriguez attended Bush's White House Christmas party and was introduced as an old friend of Gregg's. In January 1986 Rodriguez met with Gregg's deputy in Salvador. In May 1986 Rodriguez met with Gregg, Bush, and Oliver North in Bush's office. In August 1986 Gregg met with Rodriguez and Bush. (Gregg soon met with Alan Friers to support arms purchases from Rodriguez instead of Richard Secord.) John K. Singlaub warned North in September 1986 that too much contact with Rodriguez would be bad for the Administration.

Maxwell School at Syracuse University[edit]

Gregg, while at the Korea Society during President George W. Bush's administration, helped establish a program "of bringing North Koreans for information technology training and other issues" to Maxwell.[7] Following a North Korean nuclear agreement with the United States in February 2012, North Korea's vice foreign minister and envoy to nuclear disarmament negotiations Ri Yong Ho reportedly planned to attend a forum at Maxwell.[8][9] Gregg also appeared on PBS News Hour to discuss the agreement with Balbina Hwang, visiting professor at Georgetown University and a Korea specialist at the State Department during the last Bush administration.[10]

In September 2009, Gregg retired to the role of chairman emeritus of The Korea Society and was replaced as chairman by Thomas C. Hubbard.



In 2014, Gregg published Pot Shards: Fragments of a Life Lived in CIA, the White House, and the Two Koreas ISBN 978-0990447115, a memoir.

In fiction[edit]


  1. ^ a b Office of the Historian, "Donald Phinney Gregg (1927-)"
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training, 3 March 2004, "Interview"
  3. ^ "C. T. Buckley to Marry Lucy S. Gregg" (limited no-charge access), The New York Times, October 7, 1984. Retrieved 2011-12-19.
  4. ^ Colacello, Bob, "Mr. and Mrs. Right", Vanity Fair, January, 2009. Headline refers to Buckley's parents. Retrieved 2011-12-19.
  5. ^ Walsh, Lawrence E., Chapter 29 "Donald P. Gregg", Final Report of the Independent Counsel for Iran/Contra Matters, Vol. 1, August 4, 1993 (Washington, D.C., United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.) Report via Federation of American Scientists' website
  6. ^ "Jim Steele Bio", Premiere Motivational Speakers Bureau webpage. Does not confirm anything about the meeting, just the bio facts. Retrieved 2011-12-19.
  7. ^ "Donald Gregg’s pet project at Syracuse’s Maxwell School pays dividends", guamdiary blog, March 2, 2012. Retrieved 2012-04-23.
  8. ^ "AP: Senior North Korea nuke envoy heading to N.Y.", via USA Today, March 1, 2012 2:07 update. Retrieved 2012-04-23.
  9. ^ Lee, Jean H., "North Korean official to attend unofficial nuclear talks in US", AP via Boston Globe, March 2, 2012. Retrieved 2012-04-23.
  10. ^ "North Korea's Nuclear Attitude: What's Next?", interview with Judy Woodruff, February 29, 2012. Retrieved 2012-04-23.
  11. ^ a b c American Committees on Foreign Relations, Donald P. Gregg Archived December 11, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  12. ^ Simon Moss, Cornell Chronicle, 31 March 2004, Former U.S. ambassador to Korea will give Bartels Lecture at Cornell, April 12

External links[edit]