Members of a South Korean delegation raised gold-rimmed crystal glasses filled with Chardonnay at the Maryland governor’s mansion in Annapolis on Sunday and shouted “we hah yeo!”
They were toasting the “han kuk sah we,” the son-in-law of South Korea, better known in these parts as Gov. Larry Hogan (R).
Hogan, who was diagnosed with stage 3 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma last month and finished his second round of chemotherapy last week, did not attend the cocktail reception at his home.
Instead, his wife, Yumi Hogan, the first Korean American first lady of any state in the country, welcomed the delegation, which included 12 members of the South Korea National Assembly and Moo Sung Kim, a potential presidential candidate and chairman of the Supreme Council of Saenuri Party.
“I am quite proud,” Yumi Hogan told the crowd, speaking in Korean. “Not proud of myself but of what Korean people have done in Maryland and the United States.”
The visit by the delegation comes less than two months after Gov. Hogan, joined by his wife, led a 12-day trade mission to Asia to strengthen the state’s economic ties to the region. His first stop was South Korea, where he met with government leaders and addressed several business groups, including the Korea International Trade Association.
Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford (R) said making Maryland open for business has been a top priority of the governor, noting that administration members have traveled in recent months to take that message worldwide.
Secretary of State John C. Wobensmith, turning to Yumi Hogan, told the audience: “As you know Korea holds a very special place in the governor’s heart.”
Wobensmith said Gov. Hogan has appointed a number of Korean Americans to various positions, and in February he invited 200 members of the state’s growing Korean community to the governor’s mansion to celebrate the Lunar New Year.
Yumi Hogan, an artist who brought her kimchi refrigerator to the mansion from the couple’s home in Edgewater, recently served pork bulgogi at a cookout at the mansion as part of an effort, she said, to share Korean culture and food with Marylanders.
On Saturday, she threw out the ceremonial first pitch at a baseball game in Aberdeen where a team from Korea was playing.
The first lady walked her guests on Sunday throughout the ornate rooms of the first floor of the mansion, posing for numerous pictures and moving with ease throughout the crowd.
“My husband, Larry, gave me strict orders that I should welcome you,” she said during her formal remarks.
Yumi Hogan, who immigrated to the United States when she was in her 20s, said she decided to speak in Korean to make her guests, who dined on Maryland lump crab balls, cocktail shrimp, baguette chips topped with slices of steak and an assortment of cheeses and crackers, feel at home.
Kim called Yumi Hogan the “pride of Korea.” Since she is also a “daughter of Korea,” he explained, her husband has his own unique title: “the first son-in-law of Korea to be the governor in any state.”
Kim offered his well wishes to Gov. Hogan, saying that “all the people are together in wishing [him] a speedy recovery.”