Korea expert and former diplomat to join Stanford community

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Ambassador Kathleen Stephens pictured with Shorenstein APARC Director Gi-Wook Shin.
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Shorenstein APARC

Kathleen Stephens, a former U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Korea, will join Stanford University’s Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center (APARC) as the William J. Perry Distinguished Fellow in the Korea Program.

Her fellowship, made possible through the generous support of Jeong and Cynthia Kim, is effective Sept. 1, 2015.

Ambassador Stephens will be housed at Shorenstein APARC, the center in the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies working on policy-relevant interdisciplinary research related to the Asia-Pacific.

“Kathy Stephens brings exceptional diplomatic experience on a global scale to Shorenstein APARC. Equally impressive, she has four decades of experience in Korean affairs, first as a Peace Corps volunteer in rural Korea in the 1970s, and in ensuing decades as a diplomat and as U.S. ambassador in Seoul,” said Shorenstein APARC Director Gi-Wook Shin.

"She is often cited as one of the most popular American envoys ever to South Korea. Her ability to deal with tough issues like North Korea and the U.S.-South Korean free trade agreement -- and to connect with everyday Koreans -- speaks to her deep expertise.”

Stephens came to Stanford previously as the 2013-14 Koret Fellow after 35 years as a foreign service officer in the U.S. Department of State. At Stanford, she taught a course on U.S.-Korea relations and contributed extensively to center activities, including a Koret Workshop focused on inter-Korean relations and the biannual Korea-U.S. West Coast Strategic Forum. Her time at Stanford, though, was cut short when she was recalled to the diplomatic service to lead the U.S. mission in India as charge d'affaires during the first seven months of the new administration led by Narendra Modi.

Stephens' diplomatic career included serving as acting under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs in 2012; U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Korea from 2008 to 2011; principal deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs from 2005 to 2007; and deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs from 2003 to 2005.

She also served in numerous positions in Asia, Europe and Washington D.C., including as U.S. consul general in Belfast, Northern Ireland from 1995 to 1998, during the negotiation of the Good Friday Agreement, and as director for European affairs at the White House during the Clinton Administration.

“I am delighted and honored to return to Stanford,” Stephens said. “Shorenstein APARC is an incredibly stimulating place – an opportunity to be immersed in one of the world’s leading community of scholars working on U.S.-Asia-Pacific affairs.”

Stephens holds a bachelor’s degree in East Asian studies from Prescott College and a master’s of public administration from Harvard University, in addition to honorary degrees from Chungnam National University and the University of Maryland. As an undergraduate, she studied at the University of Hong Kong and was an Outward Bound instructor in Hong Kong. She was previously a senior fellow at Georgetown University's Institute for the Study of Diplomacy.

Stephens' awards include the Presidential Meritorious Service Award (2009), the Sejong Cultural Award, and Korea-America Friendship Association Award (2013). She is a trustee at The Asia Foundation, and on the boards of The Korea Society and Pacific Century Institute.

She tweets at @AmbStephens.