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Ex-Amb. Stephens to serve as a bridge between Koreans, Americans

Ex-Amb. Stephens to serve as a bridge between Koreans, Americans

Posted August. 14, 2013 05:39,   


Kathleen Stephens, former U.S. ambassador to South Korea, is starting a new career after concluding her 35-year diplomatic service. As ambassador, she played a key role in invigorating ties between South Korea and the U.S. after the inauguration of the Lee Myung-bak administration and the Barack Obama administration.

Shin Ki-wook, director of the Stanford University`s Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, said Monday that Stephens recently retired from the U.S. State Department, and will start giving lectures and conducting research on Korea from next month as a Koret Fellow of the center.

Prior to her retirement, Stephens sent this reporter a brief email message, saying that in a new phase of her career, she hopes to contribute, in whatever form, to helping the two countries and peoples reciprocally understand and communicate.

The former U.S. envoy, who published a book on her experience in South Korea, will write in earnest academic publications on Korea during her stay in California. Notably, the Stanford institution said she will focus on the influence of society and culture on robust development of politics in Korea, and roles of the U.S.

She will also give lectures on Korea-U.S. relations to Stanford students for three months during this year’s winter semester. She will also be joined in the lectures by Stephen Bosworth, former U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy who recently moved to the Korea-U.S. Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

The center at Stanford said, “Experience of Ambassador Stephens, who is also proficient in Korean, stayed in South Korea for many years and handled related affairs, will culminate in research and lectures.”

Stephens first formed a relationship with South Korea in 1975 while teaching English in Yesan, South Chungcheong Province as U.S. Peace Corps volunteer. After starting her diplomatic career in 1978, she served as the head of political affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul from 1984 to 1987. She served as the first female U.S. ambassador to Korea from 2008 to 2011.

Upon returning to the U.S., she served as acting assistant secretary for public diplomacy and public information from 2012. While continuing diplomatic service, she has been studying U.S. foreign policy and South Korea-U.S. relations in her capacity as senior researcher with the Georgetown University Institute for the Study of Diplomacy.

From June this year, she has been participating for two years as a lecturer in the “South Korea-U.S. Nexus Program,” which is co-hosted by the Korea Foundation under Korea’s Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Mansfield Foundation of the U.S., joining a project to nurture young U.S. experts on the Korean Peninsula.

“All Americans are striving to find a path to ensure security of Korea. I hope all Koreans (including North Koreans) will come to enjoy freedom,” Stephens said in an interview with The Dong-A Ilbo in April, stressing, “I believe in Korea, and I believe in South Korea-U.S. relations.”