By Kim Rahn
Jasmine Lee, the Philippine-born naturalized Korean citizen who became a ruling Saenuri Party lawmaker, is becoming the target of racially-based online attacks.
Some bloggers and tweeters have said Lee’s election will pave the way for interracial families to gain at the expense of Koreans and producing more illegal aliens.
The 35-year-old, who married a Korean in 1995 and obtained Korean citizenship three years later, is the first naturalized Korean to be made a lawmaker. Her husband died in 2010.
Her candidacy in the April 11 National Assembly elections was in line with the ruling party’s goal to draw more support from foreign residents here, and she pledged to make efforts to abolish prejudice against interracial families.
But since the election, some Netizens have posted messages attacking Lee, many of which are based on false information about her or due to racism.
A tweeter said, “Following the immigrant wife Lee’s entry to the Assembly, we can well predict the rise of unregistered foreigners and foreign women marrying in return for money. We’ll see the truth of multiculturalism that exploits Koreans.”
Contrary to these claims, Lee dated her husband before getting married and is a legal resident.
Some claim she doesn’t deserve the benefits she would have as a lawmaker, saying Koreans are paying taxes that will be used for interracial families.
Another tweeter sarcastically said, “Korea is a paradise for foreigners. Korea gives foreigners benefits which it doesn’t even give to its nationals. Come to Korea, you can become lawmakers.”
Another said, “The money and benefits Jasmine Lee will get are 600 million won in salary during the four years of her term, seven paid staff, separate 10 million won per month for her activities, a car, discounts for railway use, and a family allowance.”
Some bloggers denounced the government’s multiculturalism policies. “Unlike the United States or China, Korea has been a racially homogenous country. I don’t know why we need multiculturalism. I don’t understand why the country accepts immigrants in this small country and make them threaten our livelihoods, and I don’t know why politics takes the lead.”
Seoul National University professor Cho Kuk said on Twitter, “Criticism of Jasmine Lee’s political position or capabilities may be healthy, but racism should be avoided.”
As many of those denouncing the ruling party lawmaker-elect are supporters of opposition parties, critic Chin Jung-kwon also said, “The opposition party won’t have a chance of winning the presidential election if it doesn’t do something to stop its supporters from abusing Jasmine Lee.”
Cartoonist Koh Pil-heon echoed this: “Even though you don’t like the party Jasmine Lee belongs to, it is very rude. People who make racial comments should be racially discriminated against themselves.”
A tweeter pointed out Koreans’ bias against foreigners from Southeast Asia saying, “If Lee was from the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany or other Western European countries, would people still speak in the same manner?”