Yumi Hogan is more than just a first lady. She’s proven to be a woman of candor and spirit of compassion who has her own connections in high places.
Republican Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland spoke to the media on Monday during his news conference and let it be known that it was his wife - not the federal government - was the reason his state was able to secure half a million coronavirus test kits.
"We convened countless calls, nearly every night, sometimes it seemed like all night," said Hogan of the 22 days he and the first lady worked in conjunction with the Korean government to land the hard-to-come-by coronavirus test kits.
Hogan and his wife picked up the masks on the tarmac at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, welcoming a chartered 777 Korean airplane with no passengers aboard. Inside were the 500,00 tests from Korea’s LabGenomics, a mission the Hogans dub as “Operation Enduring Friendship,” a relationship the two established with South Korean Ambassador to the US Lee Soo Hyuk.
"The administration made it clear over and over again they want the states to take the lead, and we have to go out and do it ourselves, and that's exactly what we did," said Hogan on Monday, his wife in a pink coat, silk scarf tied around her shoulders and a blue face mask, standing to the side of the podium,” according to CNN.
What makes Yumi Hogan so special is that she is not a professional diplomat, a politician or someone who is proficient in the ins and outs of the government approvals needed to secure test kits. What she is, though, is an artist - an abstract painter whose work is typically centered on nature and is done on hanji, paper made from native Korean trees. It is through her work that she met Hogan 20 years ago.
Yumi Hogan was born in Jeonnam, Korea, a rural countryside setting, where she and her eight siblings grew up on a chicken farm. After marrying her first husband young, she moved to America and became a U.S. citizen in 1994. Then, she had three daughters before divorcing and moving with the girls to Maryland, searching for a better life, school district and a place where she would practice her art and teach.
She would eventually meet Hogan, who was wealthy with his own real estate development company. He won the 2014 Maryland governor’s race.
Campaigning beside her husband, Yumi Hogan became the first Asian American first lady of Maryland and the first Korean American first lady in any state in America’s history.
Within five short months after Hogan’s inauguration, he was diagnosed with late-stage non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Yumi Hogan became his caretaker, helping her husband through rounds of chemotherapy treatments and supporting him as he recovered.
A year after his diagnosis, Hogan was cancer-free, but it was a trying time that impacted Yumi Hogan’s initiatives. Her projects and duties as first lady shifted as she began devoting time to discussing and sharing the benefits of art therapy and teaching art to cancer patients.
Her own art pieces changed as well.
"(They) also depict the sudden change that affected my life. After my husband was diagnosed with lymphoma cancer, I began to use more colors and lines," she told The Baltimore Sun at the time. "It is my intent to make people feel and understand the unpredictable breath of nature through my works."
Since March 28, the start of Operation Enduring Friendship, Hogan has been determined to use her understanding and knowledge of Korea, its people, its language, its protocol, in an effort to get Covid-19 tests for the state she serves as first lady.