Kathleen Stephens


Kathleen Stephens, Global Senior Advisor, advises clients on issues in Asia and Europe.

Ambassador (ret) Kathleen Stephens was President and CEO of the Korean Economic Institute of America (KEI) from 2018 to 2023. Ambassador Stephens was a career diplomat in the United States Foreign Service, 1978-2015. She was the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Korea 2008-2011, the first woman and first Korean speaker to serve in that position. Other overseas assignments included postings to China, Korea, former Yugoslavia, Portugal, Northern Ireland, where she was U.S. Consul General in Belfast (1995-1998) during the negotiations culminating in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, and India, where she was U.S. Charge ‘d Affaires (2014-2015).

Ambassador Stephens served in a number of policy positions in Washington at the Department of State and the White House. These included acting Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (2012), Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (2005-2007), Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs (2003-2005), and National Security Council Director for European Affairs at the Clinton White House.

Ambassador Stephens was William J. Perry Fellow for Korea at Stanford University from 2015 to 2018. She has also been Endowed Chair Professor for Language and Diplomacy at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul, and Senior State Department Fellow at Georgetown University’s Institute for the Study of Diplomacy. She chairs the board of The Korea Society and is Vice-chair of the Board of Trustees of The Asia Foundation. She is a member of the American Academy of Diplomacy and the Council on Foreign Relations.

Ambassador Stephens has received U.S. government awards including the Presidential Meritorious Service Award (2009) and Linguist of the Year (2010). She has received numerous awards related to her work in Korea, including the Kwanghwa Medal of Diplomatic Merit, the Sejong Cultural Award, the Korean-American Friendship Association Award, the Kevin O-Donnell Distinguished Friend of Korea, AmCham Korea’s Outstanding Achievement Award, and the First Baek Bum Kim Koo Award (2022). In earlier years, she was named Hangul Goodwill Ambassador and Korea National Museum Goodwill Ambassador. She is an honorary citizen of Jeju Province. She holds honorary doctoral degrees from the University of Maryland and Chungnam National University.

Ambassador Stephens studied at Prescott College, the University of Hong Kong, and Oxford University, and holds a BA Honors from Prescott. She was a Peace Corps volunteer in Korea 1975-1977.  She holds a Master’s degree from Harvard University’s Kennedy School.