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Kathleen Stephens


Kathleen Stephens is U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Korea. She arrived in Korea on September 23, 2008, and presented her credentials to President Lee Myung-bak on October 6, 2008.

Ambassador Stephens is a Career Minister in the U.S. Foreign Service. Since joining the Foreign Service in 1978, she has served in numerous posts in Washington, Asia, and Europe. From 2005 to 2007 Ambassador Stephens was Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs. She was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs from 2003 to 2005, where she focused on post-conflict and stabilization issues in the Balkans. Other Washington assignments included Director for European Affairs at the National Security Council, 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.

Ambassador Stephens' overseas postings have 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 (1980-1982), chief of the internal political unit in Seoul (1984-1987), principal officer of the U.S. Consulate in Busan, Korea (1987-1989), and political officer in the former Yugoslavia in the early ‘90s.

Ambassador Stephens was born in El Paso, Texas and grew up in New Mexico and Arizona. She has longstanding family ties to Montana. She holds a B.A. (Honors) in East Asian studies from Prescott College and a master’s degree from Harvard University. While an undergraduate Ambassador Stephens spent a year studying at the University of Hong Kong and was also an instructor at the Outward Bound School of Hong Kong. She holds honorary doctoral degrees from Chungnam National University and the University of Maryland. In addition to several State Department Superior and Meritorious Honor Awards received throughout her career, Ambassador Stephens received in 2009 the Presidential Meritorious Service Award, and in 2010 the Department of State’s Linguist of the Year Award and the Korean YWCA’s Korea Woman Leadership Award, Special Prize. She is a recipient of the 2011 Pacific Century Institute’s Building Bridges Award. Ambassador Stephens was a Peace Corps volunteer in Korea from 1975 to 1977. Her foreign languages are Korean, Serbian and Chinese. She has one son, a robotics engineer working in Boston.