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Befriend a royal...by joining a choir

What do an outspoken South Korean businesswoman who has made her fortune distributing high-end luxury goods in Asia and H.S.H Prince Albert II of Monaco, have in common? An interest in singing, apparently.

As one of Asia's most celebrated entrepreneurs, Sung-Joo Kim has spent over 20 years establishing influential business leaders and politicians as contacts, but her friendship with classmate Prince Albert of Monaco was formed at the university choir.

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Young choir members
Fuse I Getty Images
Young choir members

Founder of Sungjoo Group and chairperson of luxury brand MCM, Kim escaped "one of the strictest environments you can be brought up in" in South Korea after convincing her family to let her study at Amherst College in the U.S.

Kim launched her business in 1991, after her energy tycoon father lent her $300,000 and she won the rights to distribute Gucci exclusively in South Korea. Kim then went on to buy the German label MCM in 2005, when its annual sales came in at $100 million.

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"This year we are doing $650 million business. We are already in 32 countries," Kim said.

It was at Amherst that she met the heir to the throne of Monaco after rumors that a prince was in her class circled.

"It's a funny story. First of all I was having a hard time dealing with English and following the classes so I didn't really socialise myself but people said 'Hey, you've got a prince in your class,'" Kim told Tania Bryer for CNBC Meets.

Sung Joo Kim, chairwoman and founder of Sungjoo Group, poses for a portrait in Seoul, South Korea
SeongJoon Cho I Bloomberg via Getty Images
Sung Joo Kim, chairwoman and founder of Sungjoo Group, poses for a portrait in Seoul, South Korea

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"I looked around and nobody looked like a prince even though we only have very small class member, maybe only 15-20 of us in each class," she said.

Kim said that she later noticed one student with "messy hair and tracksuits" who was often late for the early morning class, who later introduced himself as "Al".

"He was amazing, he was such a good-hearted man and we still keep good friendship. And we used to sing in the same choir so it was really great," said Kim.

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The reigning monarch of Monaco said Kim was a "brilliant student" and he said he knew at the time that she would "do a lot of good" in her life.

"She's a remarkable person, she's not only one of the most famous people in Asia and certainly in the business world but also in the charitable world and in her fight with other women leaders for women and for their engagement in society," H.S.H Prince Albert II of Monaco told CNBC Meets.

"She should be applauded for all this wonderful work that she's doing," he said.

The full program - CNBC Meets: Sung-Joo Kim - will air on CNBC Europe on Wednesday 4 June.

Contact CNBC Meets

  • Showtimes

    EMEA

    President Carter –

    Wednesday 01 Ocotober 23:00 CET

    Saturday October 04 23:30CET


    ASIA

    President Carter –

    Saturday 04 October 19:00, SIN

    Sunday 05 October 07:00, 20:00 SIN

    Monday 06 October 04:00 SIN


    AUSTRALIA/NZ

    President Carter –

    Saturday 04 Ocotber 19:00 AEST

    Sunday 05 October 07:00, 10:30 , 1700, 2000 AEST

    Monday 06 September 04:00, 08.00 AEST