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Sung-Joo Kim appointed as an Honorary Officer of the Order of the British Empire











In recognition of her contribution to the strengthening of UK-Korea relations, Chairperson Sung-Joo Kim has been made an Honorary Officer of the Order of the British Empire.


In recognition of her contribution to strengthening the relationship between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Korea, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has chosen to formally recognise Sung-Joo Kim by making her an Honorary Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE).


Sung-Joo Kim has for many years worked tirelessly to further links in culture, education, and international relations, and also between Evangelical communities, in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Korea. She has been an energetic and generous supporter of many British institutions and organisations including Asia House, Pan Asian Women`s Association (PAWA), Wales Evangelical School of Theology (WEST), Victoria & Albert Museum, London College of Fashion, London College of Art and the British Red Cross. She is a substantial investor in the United Kingdom through the fashion brand MCM, and she has also successfully grown the Marks & Spencer brand in Korea and enhanced the reputation for British creativity.


British Ambassador Charles Hay said: “I am delighted that Her Majesty The Queen has chosen to recognise Chairperson Sung-Joo Kim’s contributions to UK-Korea relations. As well as being one of Korea’s leading business women, Sung-Joo Kim has also been an important global advocate of the need for business to do more for good causes. Throughout a busy professional career, including most recently her appointment as President of the Korean Red Cross, Sung-Joo Kim has remained one of the UK’s staunchest supporters in Korea. The Honorary award of Officer of the Order of the British Empire is richly deserved.”


The Order of the British Empire recognises valuable service to the United Kingdom, and has been rewarded to Vivienne Westwood and David Beckham. Sung-Joo Kim is the first female Korean to receive the OBE.



Speech by Her Majesty’s Ambassador Charles Hay on the award of an OBE to Chairperson Kim Sung-joo:

I am delighted to welcome so many distinguished guests to the Residence this evening.


I feel that here tonight we have perhaps the largest grouping of the UK’s staunchest Korean supporters that I have so far had the honour to experience.  And in the four months I have been Ambassador this has been the happiest most joyful event that I have hosted in the Residence.


I am well aware looking around the room this evening that your contributions have played a significant role in enhancing the UK and Korea’s bilateral relationship in a number of fields. Politically our relationship is stronger than ever before. We have become natural partners in international affairs. Much of this current cooperation stems from the support of people in this room for our bilateral relationship.


In addition our two countries have a thriving mutual trade and investment relationship - many of you have and continue to work tirelessly to support UK businesses.


And I know that many more of you have lived in the UK, studying or teaching at our finest universities and have since returned to Korea as advocates for the UK, as a place to study, live and do business.


Tonight we are here to recognise Chairperson Kim Sung-joo. You all know Chairperson Kim well.  What to me is striking is the sheer of breadth of her activity, covering nearly element of the bilateral relationship.  There simply isn’t time to mention all of her contributions here. So I will just pick out the highlights.


Chairperson Kim’s relationship with the UK goes back to the 1980s when she studied at the London School of Economics. I know she has maintained homes there ever since and that London and the UK have remained close to her heart.


In the mid-1990s she successfully acquired the Marks and Spencer’s (M&S) franchise in Korea - beating off substantial competition in the process. M and S is an iconic and well-loved British brand and she has been instrumental in growing the brand in the Korean market.  In this, she has been lauded for her insight, progressive thinking and international branding know-how. She successfully steered M&S through the Asian Financial Crisis and the more troubled economic conditions of more recent times.


Chairperson Kim has also devoted significant time and effort to a range of UK institutions. She has been a keen supporter of the arts in the UK and was patron of the Victoria & Albert Museum from 2007-2009.


Chairperson Kim is a long-standing Trustee of Asia House, our leading institution for understanding Asia. She has been an energetic and generous supporter of Asia House throughout that time in particular in driving enthusiasm for UK-Korea joint endeavours and has been a powerful voice in raising the the potential for the bilateral relationship within the UK.


The Chairman of Asia House, Sir John Boyd - a distinguished former British Ambassador to Japan - has summed up Chairperson Kim’s role adeptly:


“She is a pillar of the operation - committed, energetic, highly respected inside and out.

She has hugely reinforced our ability to deal with Korea, politically and culturally and

to take into account in our programmes of its strategic significance and of UK interests.

… In short, a remarkable personality”.


This enthusiasm has I know been brought to bear on a range of similar projects, through Asia House and through other organisations, all aimed at developing the bilateral relationship.


For example, Chairperson Kim is the founder of the Pan Asian Women`s Association (PAWA), a UK based charity organisation which promotes friendship between groups of women in the UK and across Asia.


Perhaps less well known is Chairperson Kim’s support for developing relationships between religious communities in the UK and Korea. I know that very close to her heart is her enthusiasm for celebrating the unique role Welsh Evangelicals have played in the spread of Christianity into Korea. She has been an ardent supporter of the Welsh Evangelical School of Theology for many years. The school is a small institution in Brigend - a small town in Wales - providing undergraduate and postgraduate level study in contemporary church leadership and theology, with the aim of fostering a global ministry. Since 2007, Chairperson Kim has been instrumental in securing the future of the school. She has facilitated a valuable relationship with the Sarang Community Church here in Seoul and the School now has a uniquely Korea feel, with Korean students making up a significant proportion of the total student population. I know the Wales Evangelical School of Theology are very grateful for your support - and for, in many ways, saving their School.


It is often easy to forget that these achievements have occurred amidst a hugely busy - and incredibly successful - professional career. She is one of Korea’s - and Asia’s - leading business women. She has also ventured into the political field, playing a significantly role in President Park’s election campaign.


Chairperson Kim’s charitable and philanthropic endeavours are well known. She is a leading global advocate for the rights of women and for big business to do more for good causes. The charitable organisation she founded - the Sungjoo Foundation - has done much significant work under the Christian philosophy of faith, hope and charity. I know that providing medical and food aid to North Korea is something close to Chairperson Kim’s heart.


She is now the President of the Korean Red Cross, an organisation I know she leads with great pride.


The lists of achievements - both professional and personal - is endless.


But we are here tonight to recognise the particular service you have given to the UK. Your endeavours, extending across the breadth of the bilateral relationship, are significant, and I am delighted that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has chosen to recognise them by making you an honorary Officer of the Order of the British Empire.


I will now ask my Deputy Head of Mission, Mr Andrew Dalgleish, to read the Warrant from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.





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