Wednesday, May 20, 2015

[Herald Interview] ‘Korea-Japan-U.S. ties no zero-sum game’

Despite the strained ties between Seoul and Tokyo and other challenges, the South Korea-U.S. alliance is 'more resilient, deeper and broader than ever,' former U.S. ambassador to Korea Kathleen Stephens said. ...

During her ambassadorial stint here from 2008 to 11, Stephens turned into an icon of public diplomacy. She blogged about the host country in Korean language, dipped into traditional food and biked all over the lower part of the peninsula. In one summer, she even flew to Jejudo Island to pick abalones and octopuses alongside female divers there.

Stephens image from article

Her affability, professionalism and command of the local language made many Koreans feel more comfortable with her superpower homeland. ...

To her, public diplomacy is just 'one additive' to diplomacy.

'From my first diplomatic assignment in 1978, I always felt that to be an effective diplomat, by that I define as someone who is able to perceive and understand to some extent views of the host country and communicate the views of your own country and build, not always agreement, but some kind of deeper appreciation and understanding of each other’s concerns and positions,' Stephens said.

'To do that, you couldn’t always talk to the people in the government, and you couldn’t only talk to the people who agree with you. You always have to widen the circle.'

The former envoy was visiting Korea to take part in a forum on Jejudo Island and give a lecture at a university in Seoul. After 35 years of diplomatic service, she retired following a brief term as interim ambassador to India concluding last December. She plans to study Asia more as a fellow at Stanford University’s Asia-Pacific Research Center soon."

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