Seong Ok Baik is nearly halfway through her two-year term at the helm of the Korean Society, a statewide organization headquartered off Bendix Road in Columbia. She is a real estate agent who emigrated from South Korea in 1975 with her husband and young children. The couple, who live in Marriottsville, have resided in Howard County since 2000.
Here, Baik shares some interesting facts such as her love of Korean soap operas and her need for little sleep.
1. She came to America with $800 and a dream.
Baik and her husband, Jun Bin Baik, first settled in St. Louis before moving two years later to Baltimore, where they ran a small grocery store named Novak's for 22 years. They came to the U.S. to build a better life for their children, Ken, who lives in White Marsh, and Jenny, of North Laurel.
2. She and her husband are Korean Society "royalty."
He served as president of the Korean Society in 1988 and 1989. When Seong became president in January 2016, they became the only couple to have held that office in the society's history. Korean immigrants pooled their funds to start the service-based organization in 1972.
3. She's an avid golfer.
Baik has played golf since the 1990s and averages a score of 95 or so on the links. She started the Korean Women's Golf Association in 1995, which holds fundraisers for the Korean Society at PB Dye Golf in Frederick County. The club has 75 members.
4. She helped campaign for Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan.
Baik said many Koreans chose to support the Republican's run for office in 2014, in no small part due to their affinity for his wife, Korean-born Yumi Hogan.
5. She hosts sleepovers every Friday for her two grandchildren.
Baik has invited her grandsons, both 10, to stay overnight at her home (and occasionally at a local hotel) without missing a week for eight years and counting. She enjoys being the "fun grandma" and wants to ensure that the cousins are close friends. "The No. 1 foundation in life is family," she says.
6. She only sleeps four or five hours a night.
Her 30-year career with Washington Newstar Realty keeps her busy with paperwork and other obligations until 2 a.m. most nights. Baik, who celebrated her 70th birthday in July, rises early to get her day started.
7. She is addicted to Korean soap operas.
Often called K-dramas, they are "one of the hottest trends in entertainment," Baik says — and not just among Koreans. Thanks to subtitles, they're a global phenomenon. She loves watching golf on TV, too.
8. She is the oldest of seven children.
Baik has five sisters and one brother, and their widowed mother lives in Baltimore. In 2005, 80 family members of all ages, mostly on her husband's side, gathered for a reunion in South Korea, which she misses deeply. They toured the country's mountains on a coach bus.
9. She wants to establish a "Korea Way" on Route 40.
Baik says nearly 170 Koreans own businesses on a five-mile stretch in Ellicott City. She'd like to recognize their achievements by having signs erected that promote the business district, not unlike Little Italy in Baltimore.
10. Her family loves her kimchi soup.
Her most-requested dish is made with pork and kimchi, which is spicy cabbage marinated with garlic and ginger. Those two main ingredients are combined in a simple broth of sesame oil and water. Family members of all ages crave it, so it's served often.