Search All Site Content

Total Index: 6433 publications.

Subscribe to our Mailing List!

Sign up for our mailing list to keep up to date on all the latest developments.

KEI Contributor

Kathleen Stephens Headshot

Kathleen Stephens

Ambassador (ret) Kathleen Stephens served as the President and CEO of KEI from September 2018 to December 2023. Ambassador Stephens was a career diplomat in the United States Foreign Service, 1978-2015. She was U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Korea 2008-2011, the first woman and first Korean-speaker to serve in that position. Other overseas assignments included postings to China, former Yugoslavia, Portugal, Northern Ireland, where she was U.S. Consul General in Belfast during the negotiations culminating in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, and India, where she was U.S. Chargé d’Affaires (2014-2015).

Ambassador Stephens served in senior policy positions in Washington at the Department of State and the White House. These included acting Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (2012), Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (2005-2007), Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs (2003-2005), and National Security Council Director for European Affairs at the Clinton White House.

Korea has been a leit motif of Ambassador Stephens’ life and career since she served in rural Korea as a Peace Corps volunteer and trainer, 1975-1977. She was in Korea 1983-1989, first as a political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul reporting on Korea’s domestic political and human rights scene, and later leading the U.S. Consulate in Busan.

Ambassador Stephens was William J. Perry Fellow for Korea at Stanford University’s Shorenstein Asia Pacific Research Center, 2015-2018. She has also been Endowed Chair Professor for Language and Diplomacy at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul, and Senior State Department Fellow at Georgetown University’s Institute for the Study of Diplomacy. She chairs the board of The Korea Society and is Vice-chair of the Board of Trustees of The Asia Foundation. She is a member of the American Academy of Diplomacy and the Council on Foreign Relations.

She has received U.S. government awards including the Presidential Meritorious Service Award (2009) and Linguist of the Year (2010). She has received numerous awards related to her work in Korea, including the Kwanghwa Medal of Diplomatic Merit, the Sejong Cultural Award, the Korean-American Friendship Association Award, the Kevin O-Donnell Distinguished Friend of Korea, AmCham Korea’s Outstanding Achievement Award, and in 2022 the First Baek Bum Kim Koo Award. In earlier years she was named Hangul Goodwill Ambassador and Korea National Museum Goodwill Ambassador. She is an honorary citizen of Jeju Province. She holds honorary doctoral degrees from the University of Maryland and Chungnam National University.

Ambassador Stephens was an undergraduate at Prescott College, University of Hong Kong and Oxford University, and holds a BA Honors from Prescott. She holds a Master’s degree from Harvard University’s Kennedy School.

To view the contributions that this author has made around the site, click through the tabs below to view their work.

From K-pop to K-drama and food, Korean culture has taken the globe by storm. Korean artists are topping the Billboard charts, Korean films are winning Oscars, and Korean kimbap at…

Read More

December 28, 2023

The United States and the Republic of Korea have been celebrating the 70th anniversary of the alliance and the 120th anniversary of Korean immigration to the United States throughout 2023.…

Read More

With relations between Korea and Japan improving over the last year the leaders of the United States, Korea, and Japan met in Washington on August 18 to discuss a common…

Read More

August 31, 2023

On May 1, 2023, KEI hosted a conversation between Ambassador Marc Knapper and Ambassador (ret.) Kathleen Stephens on potential new and expanded areas of trilateral cooperation between the United States,…

Read More

KEI’s President Ambassador Kathleen Stephens was interviewed on the American Diplomat podcast about the upcoming state visit by President Yoon Suk-yeol and the U.S.-ROK alliance. This episode was uploaded on…

Read More

April 13, 2023

KEI President Ambassador Kathleen Stephens was featured on Arirang’s The Globalists. Watch the video below to learn about her personal connection with Korea and her take on current U.S.-Korea relations.…

Read More

December 19, 2022

On September 2, KEI President and CEO Kathleen Stephens penned a column for the JoongAng Daily that drew attention to South Korea’s evolution as a middle power during the U.S.…

Read More

September 9, 2021

KEI President and CEO Kathleen Stephens gave remarks at an event hosted by the Southeast United States Korean Chamber of Commerce at the Kia Motors plant in West Point, GA.…

Read More

February 11, 2020

By Kathleen Stephens The second summit between President Donald Trump and DPRK leader Kim Jong-un ended without an agreement. But the engagement provided insights into the negotiating positions and styles of both Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un. KEI will continue to assess the implications of the Hanoi outcome. Here are some initial observations that we…

Read More

Region: Asia

February 28, 2019

By Kathleen Stephens Like many others, I have been inspired in recent days by the many remembrances of President George H.W. Bush, and his eventful and admirable presidency. Coverage of his foreign policy legacy unsurprisingly focuses on the dramatic late-Cold War scene in Europe, which culminated in the break-up of the Soviet Union and the reunification…

Read More

Region: Asia

December 6, 2018