A Filipina is one of the most hated women in Korea
Multicultural families have a hard time finding their own voice in South Korea, a conservative society instilled with the ideals of one ethnicity.
But Jasmine Bacurnay-Lee, a Filipina who is the first naturalized Korean to win a seat in the National Assembly, is determined to change that.
While her fellow Filipinos celebrated her win, Koreans were not pleased.
With her election into office, Lee is now tagged as one of Korea’s most hated women. Since then, racial slurs and hateful speech have been part of her life.
A native of Davao City, Lee became a Korean national in 1998 when she married her seafarer husband in 1995. She was widowed in 2010 when he died in an accident while on a family vacation.
Before her stint in politics, she was a TV personality and a volunteer for various NGOs.
In an interview with Huffington Post Korea, Lee explained her campaign to promote acceptance, and the struggles she’s faced along the way.
“I used to be loved by everyone, then suddenly everyone hated me,” she said in the interview. “I didn’t expect it when I first agreed to enter politics.”
According to reports, her involvement with the Waterdrop Society, a group of married immigrants in South Korea, was noticed by the Grand National Party, now known as the Saenuri Party.
She was offered a representative seat in the Seoul city council in 2010, but she had to turn it down.
When the party once again offered her a political position in 2012, she took on the challenge and won a seat in their parliament.
Since then, Lee has paved the way for Korea to welcome a multicultural society. At the 19th National Assembly, she was a member of Gender Equality and Family Committee and the Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee.
Despite her naysayers, Lee is not backing down.
“I would like to design a roadmap that is most apt for Korea on multiculturalism,” Lee said. “Korea’s immigrant issues and those of the U.S. and Europe are totally different. That’s why we have to adopt an immigrant policy that is wholly Korean and distinct from those two cultures.”
She is very much aware of the remarks being thrown at her, but Lee remains unfazed.
“I’m still struggling and fighting the fight. I’m the very first [non-ethnic Korean in the Congress], but we have to make sure I’m not the last. There have to be more Jasmine Lees.”