The Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the World Affairs Council of Austin is pleased to present a discussion on trade and security featuring the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Korea, Harry Harris; The Republic of Korea Ambassador to the USA, Yoon-je Cho; and President of the Korea Institute of America and former U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Korea, Kathleen Stephens.
Ambassador Harry Harris was confirmed by the United States Senate on June 28, 2018 as U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Korea (ROK).
Ambassador Harris commanded the U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM), now known as the Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM), from May, 2015 to May, 2018. He is the first Asian-American to hold four-star rank in the U.S. Navy and the first to head USPACOM. Prior to USPACOM, he commanded the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Other operational commands include the U.S. 6th Fleet, Striking and Support Forces NATO, Joint Task Force Guantanamo, Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing 1, and Patrol Squadron 46.
From 2011 to 2013, Ambassador Harris served as the representative of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Secretary of State. In this role, he traveled to over 80 countries with the Secretary and participated in most of the Secretary’s meetings with foreign leaders. He also served as the U.S. Roadmap Monitor for the Mid-East Peace Process.
Ambassador Harris was born in Japan and reared in Tennessee and Florida. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1978. He holds master’s degrees from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service. He also did post-graduate work at Oxford University and completed the Seminar 21 fellowship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Ambassador Yoon-je Cho was appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Korea to the United States of America by President Moon Jae-in in August 2017. He presented his credentials to President Donald J. Trump on November 29, 2017.
Prior to his appointment to the US, Ambassador Cho was dispatched as President Moon’s Special Envoy to the European Union and Germany in May 2017. He previously served as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Korea to the United Kingdom from 2005 to 2008. From 2003 to 2005, he was an Advisor to President Roh Moo-hyun on Economic Policy. He was a core and advisor for President Moon Jae-in’s 2017 election campaign, heading the thencandidate’s core think-tank, “The Policy Space for People’s Prosperity”.
As one of the most prominent economists in Korea, Ambassador Cho was trained in the Department of Economics at Seoul National University (BA, 1976) and Stanford University (MA and Ph.D. in Economics, 1984). Ambassador Cho began his career as an economist at the World Bank (1984-1989) and the International Monetary Fund (1989-1992). Before returning to the World Bank as Senior Economist in 1992, he also taught at Georgetown University as an adjunct professor.
Ambassador Cho has held various positions in the ROK government throughout his career, including Member of the Financial Sector Development Committee at the Ministry of Finance and Economy (2000-2003), Member of the Policy Board at the Korea Center for International Finance (1999-2001), and Senior Advisor to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and Economy (1996-1997). He also served as Vice President of the Korea Institute of Public Finance (1995-1996).
Ambassador (retired) Kathleen Stephens assumed leadership of KEI as President and CEO in September 2018. Ambassador Stephens was a career diplomat in the United States Foreign Service, 1978-2015. She was 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, former Yugoslavia, Portugal, Northern Ireland, where she was U.S. Consul General in Belfast during the negotiations culminating in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, and India, where she was U.S. Charge ‘d Affaires (2014-2015).
Ambassador Stephens also 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.
Korea has been a leit motif of Ambassador Stephens’ life and career since she served in rural Korea as a Peace Corps volunteer and trainer, 1975-1977. She was in Korea 1983-1989, first as a political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul reporting on Korea’s domestic political and human rights scene, and later leading the U.S. Consulate in Busan.
Stephens was William J. Perry Fellow for Korea at Stanford University’s Shorenstein Asia Pacific Research Center, 2015-2018. 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 is a Mansfield Foundation Distinguished Fellow, Pacific Century Institute board chairman, a trustee for The Asia Foundation, and on the board of The Korea Society. She is a member of the American Academy of Diplomacy and the Council on Foreign Relations.