Pakistan-born Korean Anna Kim is so much more than ‘super rich’

Pakistan-born Korean Anna Kim is so much more than ‘super rich’

She runs a K-Beauty company, a production company, lives in Pakistan and is Korean — so who is Anna Kim?
Updated 16 May, 2024

I binge-watched Netflix’s latest reality show Super Rich in Korea in one day after my boss told me it featured a Pakistani-Korean named Anna Kim. I was instantly fascinated by this woman — she’s visibly Pakistani, speaks Korean fluently, was a traditional Korean clothing model but wore Pakistani outfits throughout the show and runs her own businesses.

In case you’re living under a rock, Super Rich in Korea is Netflix’s latest reality show featuring five wealthy individuals associated with Korea. Only one cast member, Aren Yoo, is native to Korea. Our person of interest, Anna Kim was born in Pakistan and moved to Korea, while the other cast members include an Iraqi from the UAE (Noor Naim), an Italian (Teodoro Marani) and a Singaporean (David Yong). It — like most other shows about the elite — follows the everyday lives and problems of the group and how they overcome them before they all come together to celebrate their friendship. This show was no different, only in the series finale, they came together to make kimchi.

The show cleared up some of my confusion about a Pakistani with the last name ‘Kim’, however, I still had many questions, questions that only Kim could answer. So I did what any good journalist would — I sent her a message on Instagram, hoping she would respond to my request for a comment. I got a number and shortly after an agreement for an interview. To say that I was excited would be an understatement — especially given my interest in everything Korean (from BTS to kimchi, I was obsessed with it all).

My first question was why Kim? After all, it’s super rare to be born in Pakistan to Pakistani parents and have the last name Kim.

“In Korea, if you have a foreign name, you will be discriminated against. Even though I am fully Korean — I went to a Korean elementary school, an international middle and high school, and then a Korean university. However, when I started getting jobs, there was judgment because of my name,” she told me over a Zoom video call.

When Kim became a Korean national, she had the option to change her last name — which is exactly what she did, opting for one of the most popular and common surnames in South Korea.

Kim’s family moved to South Korea in 1999, when she was five years old — her father was a businessman and her mother a student at a Korean university. Growing up, the now-reality star did not face any discrimination because of how integrated her family was with the Korean community, she had Korean friends over, her mother ran an NGO and headed the parents’ association at her elementary school.

“I also had fair skin,” she added, alluding to the discrimination darker-skinned people face in Korea because of the country’s beauty standards. However, Kim was well aware of the negative perception Koreans had of Pakistanis.

“Terrorism, factory workers and honour killings — these are the three things they would associate with Pakistan,” she told me. When she started working with Pakistani refugees in Korea, her own beliefs about Pakistan turned negative as she heard tales of killings, politics and religious discrimination. Kim’s parents intervened and sent her to Namal University in Islamabad where she taught a course about Korean and in turn got to learn about Pakistan.

It was here she realised that the people applying for visas were trying to paint an exaggeratedly negative picture to actually get the visa and that Pakistan was not actually all that bad.

“After I got a really good image of Pakistan, I started working with the Pakistani Embassy in Korea to promote Pakistani culture, because I can’t change my roots,” she explained, adding that a negative image of Pakistan in Korea is something that would affect her too.

Destiny had other plans for Kim as she ended up marrying a Pakistani man and moving to Pakistan permanently. “I gave up everything in Korea. The day I was moving back to Pakistan, during a TV show I said, ‘I never thought I would marry a Pakistani guy. But I’m going back to Pakistan to marry this guy’.”

Just like she said on the show, Kim thought her husband — Qamar Tiwana — was jobless when they got married, and assumed she would take him to Korea to work with her father.

Little did she know, Tiwana was the great-grandson of Sir Khizar Hayat Tiwana, who served as the premier of Punjab from 1942 to 1947. Kim maintained that she was not aware of her husband’s status nor did not see the Tiwana family’s 200-year-old manor until after her marriage.

Super rich? Super hardworking.

It was after speaking to her at length that I discovered that Kim is so much more than the ‘super rich’ label given to her by the streaming giant — she’s an absolute powerhouse in her own right. She was the person solely responsible for bringing the K-pop group Blitzers to Lahore to shoot the music video for their song ‘Hit The Bass’, which was filmed at the Badshahi Mosque and amassed over 10 million views on YouTube.

“A friend of mine, a director, called me randomly asking to be put in touch with someone at the Indian Embassy because he wanted to do a music video concept similar to ‘Lean On’ [by Major Lazer]. I suggested that he shoot the video in Pakistan to avoid comparisons to ‘Lean On’, and told them I was in Pakistan and would do everything for them.”

And she did. Kim and her production company were responsible for everything behind the scenes, from hiring camera teams to scouting locations to arranging security. Even the skateboard in the music video was brought from Kim’s own home.

According to her, that was the first time Korean media saw Pakistan in a different, more positive light.

Kim also featured in Korean YouTuber Heechulism’s video, where she attempted to show a different side to Pakistan after the travel vlogger asked her to show him the “high class of Pakistan”.

“I knew I would get backlash from Pakistan, but it is my responsibility to show the various sides of Pakistan to Korea. That video, with us showing him Pakistani malls and my friend’s home, got a million views. So, while he was showing that there is no electricity and water in one video, in the other video we showcased how I am happy in Pakistan, how women can be independent, all of that,” she said.

After that YouTube video, Kim was encouraged to start her own channel to introduce Pakistan to Korea.

Netflix wants who?

Netflix executives first approached Kim’s brother, Ali, to be on the television show, who, according to her, is one of the richest Pakistanis living in Gangnam. However, Kim happened to be in Korea at the time and the execs, who had seen her YouTube videos, decided to interview her. Kim’s brother graciously stepped aside for his sister to become part of the main cast, with Kim believing this would be a good opportunity for her to show Pakistan differently on a bigger platform.

It took Kim and her husband two months to decide whether to be on the show — their haveli was under construction, of course. She then joined the main cast and her company helped arrange everything for Netflix Korea in Pakistan.

Shooting with Netflix was a completely different ballgame from Blitzer’s music video production, primarily because Kim wasn’t the main cast for the video. On the other hand, for Super Rich in Korea, Kim had to manage the production aspect as well as being in front of the camera.

“It was really hard… I look Pakistani but I am 100 per cent Korean,” she told me with a laugh. Working with Pakistanis and Koreans was vastly different, especially because of Pakistanis’ predilection for arriving late; she said people would often arrive hours after the call time, causing a delay in the entire day’s events.

“It was more difficult to be taken seriously as a woman when I was handling everything. They didn’t take me that seriously. They take men seriously.”

She recalled that while shooting the Biltzers music video, the security team disappeared suddenly because they weren’t given food and tea. But when Tiwana showed up and appeared to be angry, he was afforded more respect.

Behind-the-scenes issues aside, Kim told me that the team from Netflix Korean loved Pakistan and Pakistani hospitality, and wanted to come back. She added that Korean celebrities were now messaging her about wanting to visit Pakistan too.

“Let’s go [to Pakistan], let’s do something,” she quoted her famous friends. Who knows, maybe your favourite K-pop idol will be roaming the streets of Lahore, and you will have only Anna Kim to thank.

Negative perceptions, positive perceptions

While Kim feels she fulfilled her goal of portraying a positive Pakistan, she is also aware of the backlash and trolling she has been receiving from Pakistani people because of the ‘super rich’ tag.

“In Korea, we had the lowest hate,” she said as Korean audiences saw a different version of Pakistan and believed Kim and her husband to be very humble.

“All over the world, the reviews are good,” she said, though she knows there are some people in Pakistan who may be poking fun at the wording in the show, particularly the word “nobleman”.

She reiterated that she was indeed Korean and perhaps should’ve only spoken Korean throughout the show because people thought she was Pakistani because she spoke English.

Kim emphasised that while Super Rich in Korea was indeed a reality show, there was an element of editing and scripting involved in the process and urged audiences to “enjoy the show as a show”. She narrated that at one point in the second episode, she spoke about not knowing what properties her husband has, however, the subtitles read that she does not know how many vacation homes her family has.

“I tried my best to show Pakistan positively. The embassy in Korea was so happy with me.”

Kim said she was not being targeted on her Instagram account, and in fact, Pakistani celebrities had messaged her saying they were proud of her for showing a good side of Pakistan.

“I am running an NGO, I did my best to not do paisa, paisa [money, money] and not carry a Hermès bag. I [however] did not expect to get backlash on my home.”

Kim doesn’t want people to get it mixed up — she didn’t get the role in this show because of her husband’s familial wealth, it was because of her own achievements in Korea.

“I don’t want people to get it wrong that I married in [to] this royal family. Later, they [Netflix] got to know I married in [to] this family. If you see the characters, only I had the story from my childhood. They put my elementary picture, middle school, high school, and all the work I have done. I got married, so I have to show my family [because] that’s my family.”

She underscored that people’s ideas that she was on the show because she’s ‘royalty’ were “wrong” and that she just wanted to show Pakistan’s “beautiful culture” that she discovered after her marriage. Kim lamented people’s vicious rumours and their disbelief that she could bring Netflix to Pakistan. She also denied rumours that Netflix paid her family millions to shoot the show.

“It was very sad when people weren’t believing [me], [they asked] ‘who is this girl, how can she bring [Netflix to Pakistan]’.” Despite the setbacks, Kim wants to do her best to promote Pakistan and prove that she can take the country’s image to a different level.

Cross-cultural ambassador

Kim would initially promote Korean culture, she used to be an ambassador for Korean tourism and was a Korean traditional model. However, in the show, she was very careful to promote Pakistan instead. She wore Pakistani designers instead of Western fashion and featured the iconic designer Mohsin Naveed Ranjha on the show.

“I wanted to show the Pakistani fashion industry and Pakistani makeup — if you see… in Korea, my makeup and my clothes are totally different [and] in Pakistan it is totally different. So I tried to show the Pakistani beauty and fashion to everybody that lives in Korea,” she explained.

Kim is truly a cross-cultural ambassador, putting in immense effort to promote Pakistan in Korea and vice versa. During the interview, she informed me that she is launching her own Korean beauty brand, complete with Korean partners and Korean technicians who have been living in Pakistan for the past six months. All of this is an effort to introduce authentic Korean beauty products in Pakistan.

“There are many Korean beauty brands in Pakistan right now… honestly, those are the products elementary school, and high school students are using in Korea. So, I want to do affordable price products with premium quality that we really use in Korea. We are going to make a Korea[n] beauty lab in Pakistan.”

It doesn’t end at makeup, Kim’s brother and her husband are now going to work together to export Pakistani mangoes to Korea for the first time ever. Kim also wants to bring her Korean NGO, Melting Pot, to Pakistan in an effort to work for the betterment of Pakistani people. She has her heart set on bringing her teams and setting up a proper NGO to work not just for Pakistan, but also Palestine which has been decimated after Israel amped up its aggression in Gaza.

“I have some friends who are doing a great job for Palestine in Pakistan. So, I’m trying to send donations from Korea and Pakistan to Palestine.”

So… the show?

Of course, I had to know if Kim and the other cast members were actually friends behind the scenes or if the hangouts were just for show, as reality TV can often be scripted. Lo-and-behold, she told me that they were all actually really good friends!

“Noor is a really good friend of mine,” she said. And the ‘Top 1% in Singapore’ David Yong? He wants to come to Pakistan.

“David Yong wants to come to Pakistan and said he enjoyed my husband’s part in the show the most. He wants to meet the lions. It looks [like we’re] showing off, but it’s [a] very different culture. So, he wants to come to Pakistan and see life here.”

She also detailed that her other cast mates want to do business in Pakistan, with Yong wanting to bring a music festival to Pakistan, and Italian fashion prodigy Teodoro Marani wanting to bring non-alcoholic beverages. Perhaps this is why we should never underestimate the strength of soft-power politics, having a Pakistani cultural ambassador among the ‘super rich’ in Korea can be beneficial for the local economy if Pakistan plays its cards right.

I saved the best question for last, the one that plagued me the most while I watched the show — did her husband get his Korean visa yet? With a loud chuckle, Kim clarified that his visa was denied due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and prior to the pandemic, his visa had been approved but he was unable to visit in the allotted time. And now? He just had to reapply!

“He can go to Korea anytime and can get [the] visa!” she repeated to me over text.

Good to know. We’re excited to see Qamar’s adventures in Korea in the second season of the show — if there is one, that is.

All images courtesy of Netflix.


shahzad May 16, 2024 02:19pm
the article was mesmerizing. i knew Kim Anna with this article and very good to her
Shahid Hussain Raja May 16, 2024 04:00pm
Loved it. Thank you very much
Dr Rifat Parvez May 16, 2024 05:43pm
This is a request for contact to explore possibilities of introducing beverage in Pakistan to help womens' bone health issues (Osteoporosis is rampant in Pakistan). Teodoro Marani's desire to bring non-alcoholic beverages to Pakistan piqued my interest!
Taj Ahmad May 16, 2024 06:22pm
She is very beautiful, I should named her Miss Korea and Miss Pakistan same time.
Ehsan May 16, 2024 07:11pm
She is absolutely correct some Pakistanis are the biggest reason of creating negative perception about Pakistan She is going a fabulous job, more power to her
M. Saeed May 17, 2024 12:24am
But, I thought we had very strong relations with Korea during Z.A. Bhutto times?
Tooba May 17, 2024 10:55am
Following her for many years now (even before her wedding). Truly humble personality. She is perfect to be a cultural ambassador.
NYS May 17, 2024 03:31pm
What analytical approach Korea and Pakistan have level of mindset this is why K-Dramas are popular in subcontinent.. Kim did great to promote Pakistani ___Diplomats cutie pie
Imtiaz Jamil May 18, 2024 09:32am
I wish you could write in Urdu as well. May be you have done already.