Kathleen Stephens is Acting Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. Prior to this assignment she was U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Korea from September 2008 to October 2011.
Ambassador Stephens is a U.S. Foreign Service officer with the rank of Career Minister. 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 (EAP), responsible for overall bureau management and public diplomacy and for management of U.S. relations with Japan and Korea. She was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs (EUR) 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 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.
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 is the recipient of numerous State Department Superior and Meritorious Honor and senior performance awards and in 2009 received the Presidential Meritorious Service Award. She was named the Department of State’s Linguist of the Year in 2010. In 2010 she also received the Korean YWCA’s Korea Women’s Leadership “Special Prize” Award. In 2011 she received 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. Ambassador Stephens’ book “Reflections of the American Ambassador to Korea” was published in Korea in 2010.
Ambassador Stephens was born in El Paso, Texas and grew up in New Mexico and Arizona. She holds a BA (honors) in East Asian studies from Prescott College and a master’s degree from Harvard University, and honorary doctoral degrees from Chungnam National University and the University of Maryland. 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, 1972-1973. Ambassador Stephens was a Peace Corps volunteer in Korea from 1975 to 1977.