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Purpose: The American Korean Friendship Society Inc. (AKFS) is a nonprofit (81-1408283 IRS Code 501(c) (3) and nonpolitical civic organization founded in 1996 in Atlanta, Georgia. The Society’s purpose is to celebrate and strengthen the unique relationship between the peoples of the Republic of Korea and the United States of America.

New American Hero Award (NAHA): The Society presents its New American Hero Award at its annual banquet. The award is made to Americans of Korean ancestry who have contributed in a significant and noteworthy way to the United States and who have made the immigrant community proud. Past recipients have included the following:

  • Tom Kim of Knoxville, TN, who founded the Free Medical Clinic of America and has been operating the clinic for more than twelve years
  • Lieutenant Colonel John Oh, medical doctor and U.S. Army general surgeon, for his heroic service for his country in Afghanistan, including risking his own life by performing emergency surgery to remove an unexploded rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) protruding from a wounded soldier
  • Samuel “Sammy” Lee, the first Asian American to win an Olympic Gold Medal for the United States, and the first man to win back-to-back gold medals (1948 and 1952) in Olympic platform diving
  • Jason Pak, West Point graduate, U.S. Army captain (Ret.), and an elite Ranger, who was lost both legs by an improvised explosive device (IED) in Afghanistan and serves as an inspiration for veterans and civilians alike by sharing his story
  • The late James Suh, U.S. Navy SEAL, who was part of a dedicated Naval Special Warfare team fighting the Taliban and volunteered to go on a mission to rescue fellow SEAL members who were trapped by insurgent fire and killed in Afghanistan.
  • U. S. Army colonel Young-Oak Kim (1919-2005) is highly decorated US Army officer and combat veteran. He was a member of the U.S. 100th Infantry Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and a combat leader in Italy and France during World War II. 
  • Peter Meong Rhee, Chief of Acute Care Surgery and Medical Director of Marcus Trauma Center at Grady. He served in battlefields and back home as surgeon. Dr. Rhee was lead surgeon to treat 10 gunshot victims after a man opened fire on a crowd of people at a local supermarket in Arizona in 2001. One of the victims was Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Board of Directors and Staff: Mr. Frank Blake, Chairman of AKFS, chairman, Delta Air Lines; General Burwell (B. B.) Bell, retired commanding general, US Forces in Korea; Mr. Don Chapman, chairman, ChapCo Investments; Judge Miles Davis, US Magistrate Court, Florida; General Larry Ellis, retired Commanding General, US Army Forces Command; Mr. Jay Eun, Chairman, Golden Stella Inc.; Mr. Paul T. Kim, Vice President, AKFS, Senior Attorney, SEC; Consul General Young-jun Kim, Consul General, Korea (ex officio); Mr. Bartow Morgan, Chairman/CEO, Brand Banking Company; Mr. Sam Olens, former Attorney General, Georgia; Mr. Sunny K. Park, president of AKFS, CEJ, GBM; Dr. Roger Tuttero, economist, KSU; Mr. David Kang, Treasurer; Ms. Jessica Ahn Kang, Event Director

Founders: The following founders of the American Korean Friendship Society are concerned citizens of both nations who value the unique and precious relationship between the two countries. Founding committee chair: Marine Corps General and Medal of Honor recipient Raymond G. Davis (ret.); Dr. James Laney, US ambassador to the Republic of Korea; Dr. Sang-chul Kim, former mayor of Seoul; Dr. William Chace, president, Emory University; U.S. Army General William Livsey (ret.); John Hemby, executive vice president, Southern Company; Dr. Wan-kyu Cho, former president, Seoul National University; and Sunny K. Park, CEO, GBM. 

Chairpersons Emeritus:

Dr. James Laney, former US ambassador to Korea

Founding Chairman 1996–2000: Dr. William Chace, president, Emory University

Chairman, 2000–2004: Dr. Wayne Claugh, president, Georgia Tech

Chairwoman, 2004–2008: Dr. Betty Siegel, President, Kennesaw State University

Chairman, 2008–2016: General Larry Ellis, U.S. Army, retired.

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