President & CEO, Korea Economic Institute of America
Former William J. Perry Fellow, Korea Program, Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center
Former U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Korea
Ambassador Kathleen Stephens rejoined The Asia Foundation Board of Trustees in 2015 upon her return from seven months’ service in India as the Charge d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, and became a vice chair of the board in 2019. She is the president of the Korea Economic Institute of America. Stephens was formerly William J. Perry Fellow in the Korea Program at the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center (APARC). Amb. Stephens, a career diplomat in the U.S. Foreign Service, was Acting Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs in 2012, and U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Korea, 2008-2011.
During her diplomatic career Stephens 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. Stephens’ overseas postings included service in China, Korea, Yugoslavia, Northern Ireland, Portugal, and Trinidad & Tobago.
Stephens holds a bachelor’s degree in Asian Studies 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. She was senior State Department Fellow at Georgetown University’s Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, 2011-2012. She serves as Vice Chair of the Pacific Century Institute Board of Directors, is on the board of The Korea Society, and is a member of the American Academy of Diplomacy. Ambassador Stephens studied at the University of Hong Kong. She was a Peace Corps volunteer in Korea in the 1970s.