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Kathleen Stephens


Kathleen Stephens is Koret Fellow and Visiting Scholar at Stanford University's Shorenstein Center for Asia and Pacific Research, where she is teaching and speaking on issues related to the U.S. and Asia, and writing and consulting. Ambassador Stephens served 1978-2013 as a U.S. career diplomat, achieving the personal rank of Career Minister. She was Acting Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs in 2012, and U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Korea, 2008 to 2011. Her diplomatic career included service in numerous posts in Washington, Asia, and Europe. From 2005 to 2007 she was Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs (EAP). She was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs (EUR) from 2003 to 2005, focused on post-conflict and stabilization issues in the Balkans. Other Washington assignments included Director for European Affairs at the National Security Council during the Clinton Administration, Senior United Kingdom Country Officer in the European Bureau, and Director of the State Department's Office of Ecology and Terrestrial Conservation in the Bureau of Oceans, Environment and Scientific Affairs.

Her overseas postings included Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Lisbon, Portugal (1998-2001), and U.S. Consul General in Belfast, Northern Ireland (1995-1998) during the consolidation of ceasefires and negotiation of the Good Friday Agreement. Earlier foreign assignments included consular and public affairs officer in Guangzhou, China, chief of the internal political unit in Seoul, principal officer of the U.S. Consulate in Busan, Korea, and political officer in fracturing Yugoslavia.

Ambassador Stephens' U.S. government awards include Linguist of the Year in 2010, and the 2009 Presidential Meritorious Service Award. Other awards and recognition include the Korean government's Sejong Cultural Prize and the Korea-America Friendship Association Prize in 2013; the YWCA's Women's Leadership "Special Prize" Award (2010); the Pacific Century Institute's Building Bridges Award; and the Outstanding Achievement Award from the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea.

Her book Reflections of an American Ambassador to Korea, based on her Korean-language blog, was published in 2010 and is in its third printing in Korea.

Ambassador Stephens was born in El Paso, Texas, and grew up in Arizona and Montana. She holds a BA (Honors) in East Asian studies from Prescott College, a master's degree from Harvard University, and honorary doctoral degrees from Chungnam National University and the University of Maryland. She studied at the University of Hong Kong and was an instructor at the Outward Bound School of Hong Kong. She was a Peace Corps volunteer in Korea in the 1970s.