The U.S.-ROK Security Alliance at 60 Years: Looking Back, Looking Forward

1953 saw both the signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement and a Mutual Defense Treaty between the United States and the Republic of Korea. The uneasy and incomplete peace, coupled with a formalized U.S.-ROK security alliance relationship, ushered in a new era on the Korean Peninsula. 2013 marks the 60th anniversary of these pivotal events.

Ambassador Stephens will draw from her experience in Korean affairs over the past four decades, including her tenure as U.S. ambassador to the ROK 2008-2011, to discuss the evolution of the bilateral alliance, its challenges and achievements, and major issues now and going forward. This lunchtime seminar is scheduled to occur immediately upon Ambassador Stephens' return from a visit to Seoul where she will have participated in a first-ever gathering of former American ambassadors to Korea and former Korean ambassadors to the U.S. aimed specifically at reflecting on the U.S.-ROK alliance at 60.  Her comments will also be informed by these discussions.

Ambassador Stephens recently completed thirty-five years as a career diplomat in the U.S. Foreign Service. 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.

Ambassador Stephens has served 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). While Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs (EUR) from 2003 to 2005, she focused on post-conflict and stabilization issues in the Balkans. She was Director for European Affairs at the National Security Council during the Clinton Administration.

Ambassador Stephens’ overseas postings included service in China, Korea, Yogoslavia, Northern Ireland, Portugal, and Trinidad & Tobago.

Ambassador Stephens received the 2009 Presidential Meritorious Service Award. Other awards and recognition include the Korean government’s Sejong Cultural Prize (2013), and in 2011 the Pacific Century Institute’s Building Bridges Award, the Outstanding Achievement Award from the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea, and the Kwanghwa Medal of Diplomatic Merit from the Korean government. Her book, Reflections of an American Ambassador to Korea, based on her Korean-language blog, was published in 2010.

Ambassador Stephens graduated from Prescott College, and holds a master's degree from Harvard University, along with honorary doctoral degrees from Chungnam National University and the University of Maryland. Ambassador Stephens studied at the University of Hong Kong. She was a Peace Corps volunteer in Korea in the 1970s.

The Koret Fellowship was established in 2008 through the generosity of the Koret Foundation to promote intellectual diversity and breadth in the KSP by bringing leading professionals in Asia and the United States to Stanford to study U.S.-Korea relations. The fellows conduct their own research on the bilateral relationship, with an emphasis on contemporary relations, with the broad aim of fostering greater understanding and closer ties between the two countries.