Maryland owes a debt of gratitude to the people of South Korea, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said Monday after securing 500,000 coronavirus tests from the country over the weekend.

But Hogan acknowledged Monday that the deal would not have come together if it weren’t for his wife, first lady Yumi Hogan.

Yumi joined the governor Saturday to welcome a Boeing 777, the first-ever Korean Air passenger plane to land at Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport, which the governor said was carrying more tests than “four of the top five states in America” combined have completed.

The delivery was the culmination of what Hogan labeled “Operation Enduring Friendship,” which started March 28, when he asked his wife to join him on a call with the Korean ambassador to the United States.

During the call, Hogan said they spoke of the special relationship between Maryland and the Republic of Korea, a bond created because of Yumi Hogan.

“Most importantly, I want to thank Maryland’s first lady, my wife, Yumi,” Hogan said, his voice slightly cracking. “She truly is a champion of this Operation Enduring Friendship.”

Yumi Hogan is believed to be the first Korean American first lady of any state and has been the catalyst for “the special bond” between Maryland and South Korea, where Yumi Hogan has almost taken on a celebrity status.

Gov. Hogan said he has been referred to as the “han kuk sah we,” the son-in-law of South Korea, most recently by South Korean President Moon Jae-in in a videotaped greeting during a National Governors Association event last winter.

“I considered it quite an honor for him to say that that night, but I had no idea just how much that would truly come to mean these two very long months later,” Hogan said, standing near his wife at Monday’s news conference.

Before her marriage to Hogan in 2004, Yumi Hogan was a single mother of three daughters.

She grew up in a rural area on a chicken farm outside Seoul and immigrated to the United States in her 20s with her first husband, the father of her three daughters, to work in blue-collar family businesses.

Living first in Texas and then California, Yumi later divorced and moved to Howard County for its schools. In Maryland, she sought out rural areas that reminded her of home, inspiring her abstract landscapes. She taught art in her basement and worked as a cashier, trying to provide for her daughters.

She became a citizen in 1994 and met Hogan six years later at an art show.

In 2008, she earned a bachelor’s degree from the Maryland Institute College of Art. Two years later, she received a master’s degree from American University.

Her work, using traditional sumi ink and hanji paper, has been displayed locally and around the world.

Since her husband took office in 2015, Yumi Hogan has hosted a delegation from South Korea at the governor’s mansion, served her own kimchi at a celebration of the Lunar New Year and impressed guests at a cookout with her traditional pork bulgogi.

She hauled her own kimchi fridge to the governor’s mansion when the couple first moved in.