A Korean American novelist and professor, he is best known for his 1995 spy novel, Native Speaker. For many years, he served as the director of Princeton University's Creative Writing Program.
He studied English literature and creative writing at Yale University and the University of Oregon. Before becoming a full-time writer, he worked on Wall Street as a financial analyst.
He came to the United States when he was three years old.
He was born in South Korea and raised in New York. He and his wife raised two daughters.
His novel, Native Speaker, won the PEN/Hemingway Award, an honor named after author Ernest Hemingway.