Obituary: Sir Thomas Harris, KBE, CMG

Posted by: Lauren Barnes  |  Posted on: October 20th, 2021


Sir Thomas Harris and Lady Harris at the Korean Ambassador’s 2015 reception for the BKS


It is with great sadness that I have heard of the recent death of Tom Harris, my predecessor as Ambassador in Seoul and a great friend of mine and of the British Korean Society.


After graduating from Cambridge, Tom’s civil service career started in the Department of Trade and Industry, before postings to Washington, Tokyo and Lagos saw him securely in the Diplomatic Service.  He served as Ambassador in Seoul from 1993 to 1997, before taking on the key job – again in the DTI – of Director-General for Export Promotion from 1997 to 1999.  His final job in the FCO was as Consul-General in New York where crucially he had to lead the UK’s response on the ground to the tragic events of 11 September 2001.  It was no surprise that he had been awarded a CMG in 1995 and then the KBE in 2002 in recognition of his work in New York.


Retirement was not a concept that was familiar to Tom.  After leaving government employment, he joined Standard Chartered Bank as Vice-Chairman and held non-executive roles with a string of companies with important links to Asia.  He also served on a variety of governmental and advisory boards and panels relating to Asia, such as Asia House, the Taiwan Britain Business Council and the UK India Business Council.  In all of these, he brought his characteristic energy and focus.


Tom and Mei-Ling have been stalwart supporters of the Society over the years and frequent attendees at the Society’s events.  We send heartfelt sympathy to Mei-Ling and the family.



Stephen Brown

BKS Joint President

One Response

  1. William Knight says:

    Exceedingly sorry to learn of Tom’s passing . I always enjoyed his vibrant company and powerful intellect on the many occasions that I found myself travelling with him on visits by respective Lord Mayors of London including that to Seoul.

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