With the aftershocks of the general elections last week still rumbling on, no other candidate revealed the political fault-line in South Korea like the election of Jasmine Lee, a Filipina-Korean TV host and actress-cum-Saenuri proportional candidate, winning a seat in this election.
Ms. Jamine Lee, a well-known figure for the Filipino community and an advocate of multicultural families in South Korea is expected to help advance the welfare of some 50 000 OFWs (overseas foreign workers) as well as 1.2 million immigrants in South Korea. She met her Korean husband while she was still a college student. After marriage, she moved to Korea in 1995 and acquired the Korean citizenship in 1998. Her late husband died while rescuing their daughter in a flash flood in 2010. Since then she has been featured in a number of TV programs, including “Love in Asia” and a hit-movie Punch. Saenuri was hoping to tap into the immigrants’ votes with her nomination.
The issue of growing presence of migrant workers and foreign residents in South Korea is beginning to be felt the political arena. While the need for the manpower in the time of falling fertility and aging demographic is well-recognized, many view the idea of multiculturalism with deep reservation if not with hostile suspicion, as the public reaction to the gruesome murder by a Chinese-Korean migrant worker last week showed. Multiculturalism is seen by many as a policy lobbied by the big business interests and forced upon the ordinary citizens as an attempt to lower the wage, artificially replenish the population and weaken the labor unions and trades organizations in the name of global competitiveness.
The following article is one of the hottest topics on portal site Daum, with thousands of comments flooding in.
Controversy over xenophobic attacks against newly-elected Jasmine Lee spreads on the Internet
Controversy over xenophobic attacks against newly-elected Filipina-Korean Jasmine Lee (35 years old international-marriage migrant) of the Saenuri Party, was widespread on Twitter.
A number of controversial comments such as “mail-order bride sales will go up”, “illegal migrant workers will run rampant” are widely circulating over the Tweeter.
One Tweeter user commented: “We will bankrupt ourselves by paying these mail-order brides” while another wrote: “With Jasmine Lee entering the National Assembly, I wonder how many more illegal migrants and mail-order brides will flood in, and reveal the true nature of blood-sucking multiculturalism.”
While none of these claims against Jasmine Lee are true, a number of un-substantiated claims regarding her campaign promises are being circulated, such as ‘illegal migrant workers free medical treatment’, ‘free return airfare for returnees’.
One Tweeter wrote: “it frightens me to read her campaign promises, really makes me wonder whether she is a Korean Assembly member or a chief of illegal migrant workers.” None of these claims have any confirmed sources and some are blatantly untrue.
In such an atmosphere, others including Professor Jo-guk raised their concerns that people should refrain themselves on Twitter from such racist words and criticism.
Professor Jo-guk urged refrain on racially-motivated comments and slanders, adding “her political stance and qualification could be subjected to scrutiny but one must not indulge in racism”.
Professor Jin Jung-gwon added “Those losers who are bad-mouthing Lee Oi-soo [one of Korea's most followed Tweeters] and spreading allegations about electoral frauds in Gangnam area must be done away with if one were to hope for the presidential election”.
Cartoonist Goh Pil-hun wrote “Hate the party [Saenuri] but how dare you to talk of Mrs Lee that way. Those who are spreading racist remarks are the ones who deserve discrimination”.
Actor Kim Jung-seok chimed in: “I know Jasmine Lee personally, and knowing how tragically her husband died, to hear things like “mail-order bride bitch” really boils my blood”.
Some argued that while xenophobic remarks and racially-motivated discrimination are unacceptable, the allegations on her academic qualification fraud must be raised, it is maintained.
One Tweeter user wrote “Racial discrimination against Jamine Lee must stop. On the other hand, it is equally wrong to lump together what is a valid scrutiny against her qualifications as racially motivated”, adding “to make it uncomfortable to even mention her name, isn’t that precisely un-egalitarian in itself?”
Comments from Daum:
"Our country is headed completely in a wrong direction, what a crazy show this is to have nominated her as a proportional candidate. And this is all the more shocking coming from a conservative party such as Saenuri, not even from a progressive side. This country has no left or right but only those who abuse the average citizens, now we know that for sure. A vain-glory person such as Jasmine Lee and Saenuri are putting on a helluva show here. Western European countries or Scandinavian countries would not think of doing this. An Assembly member may not have to be smart but she would certainly need to be patriotic. How could we expect this from a first-generation migrant?"
"It’s not xenophobia per se but the crazy campaign promises that irks us~~Free medical care for illegal aliens~ To support Saenuri that nominates a crazy bitch, that’s what is causing this sense of loathing"
"Free medical care for illegal aliens and now free airfare support for returning home, are you out of your mind? We are paying our tax to send you for free? Get those crazies out back to where they come from."
"I am against multiculturalism. Look what happened to Spain once they accepted Muslim migrants. Look at Mexico after NAFTA….Against multiculturalism… No to voluntary naturalization… To increase fertility rate, post-natal care and maternal services should be improved, not through multicultural policy."