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Who is Yumi Hogan? Maryland’s first lady helped secured coronavirus tests from her native South Korea

Gov. Larry Hogan announced he has been "quietly working" for several weeks on the project to obtain more kits that he dubbed "Operation Enduring Friendship."

Maryland first lady Yumi Hogan nabbed national attention this week after she worked to obtain coronavirus test kits for the state from South Korea.

A South Korean native, Hogan helped the state secure the purchase of 500,000 coronavirus tests this week by making calls to the South Korean ambassador.

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Republican Gov. Larry Hogan praised several high-level state officials who were part of the negotiations, and also singled out his wife.

“Most importantly, I want to thank Maryland’s first lady, my wife, Yumi. She truly is a champion of this Operation Enduring Friendship,” the governor said, referencing the partnership.

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Hogan is the first Asian-American first lady in Maryland and, according to her husband’s administration, is the first Korean-American first lady of any state.

Here are a few things to know about Maryland’s first lady:

Who is Yumi Hogan?

Yumi Hogan describes herself as a first-generation immigrant, a mother of three, an “artist first and a political person second.”

The former Yumi Kim is the youngest of eight children and was raised on a chicken farm in JeonNam, in the South Korean countryside.

She married when she was 20 and came with her then-husband to the United States, where she hoped to pursue an art career. After the marriage ended, she settled in Howard County because of the solid reputation of its public schools.

After a first marriage ended in the early 1980s, Hogan spent nearly 20 years raising three girls by herself, working as a restaurant cashier and tutor to support them.

How the couple met

Larry Hogan met his wife at a Columbia art exhibit in 2001 and married her three years later. It was the first marriage for the governor and the second for Yumi Hogan.

The couple was married at the Paca House and Garden in Annapolis in a ceremony that included elements of a Korean wedding.

During formal interviews, Hogan often says she is not a politician but an artist who became a prominent part of the governor’s campaigns because she supports her husband. Her South Korean heritage has become a talking point for the governor .

Celebrating her heritage

When the couple moved into the governor’s mansion, Hogan famously brought along her special refrigerator reserved specifically for kimchi, a Korean national dish of fermented spicy cabbage and other vegetables. The refrigerator has become a cultural touchstone, repeatedly mentioned by the governor since he has taken office.

When the 2018 Winter Olympics launched in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Hogan shared some of her culture by publishing two of her easy-to-make Korean recipes on Twitter: bulgogi, a marinated beef entree, and japchae, a popular Korean noodle dish.

When the National Governors Association met in Washington in February, Larry Hogan arranged for a reception at the residence of South Korea’s ambassador to the United States, Lee Soo Hyuck.

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The governors were surprised with a video message from President Moon Jae-in, who expressed his pride for Hogan. And he called the governor a “son-in-law” of the Korean people.

The governor said he considered that quite an honor at the time.

“I had no idea just how much that would truly come to mean these two very long months later,” he said Monday.

Hogan’s art career

Hogan became a U.S. citizen years ago, earned a bachelor’s degree from Baltimore’s Maryland Institute College of Art in 2008 and is now an adjunct faculty member there. (She also holds a master’s degree from American University.)

Hogan’s artistic medium is traditional: Sumi ink, favored by many Asian artists, and Korean Hanji paper. Her work has been exhibited at the Korean Embassy in Washington, the Maryland Institute College of Art, in South Korea and many other locations.

The first lady is a big advocate for art therapy, and started a nonprofit that funded a program at the University of Maryland children’s hospital.

Hogan’s diplomacy work with South Korea

The couple have embarked on multiple international trade missions, including a 2015 visit to South Korea, Japan and China. Hogan served as unofficial ambassador and guide on the administration’s trip.

Hogan returned on her own to South Korea in 2017 to promote Maryland, the state’s flagship university and one of its most prominent businesses — all amid rising tensions on the peninsula after North Korea said it had detonated a hydrogen bomb underground.

During the trip, Hogan met with South Korea’s first lady, Kim Jung-sook, at the Blue House, the official residence of the South Korean president. Aides to the governor said the first ladies “discussed opportunities for South Korea’s new presidential administration to engage with Maryland, as well as the continuing economic, cultural, and educational ties between Maryland and South Korea.”

“Maryland has a special relationship with South Korea,” Hogan said at the time. “We hope to continue to work together to find ways to strengthen the already flourishing relationship between our regions.”

Baltimore Sun reporters Jeff Barker, Jonathan Pitts, Pamela Wood and Luke Broadwater contributed to this article.

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