Fil-Korean lawmaker Jasmine Lee visits Manila

By Cathy Rose A. Garcia,

Posted at Jul 23 2012 09:47 AM | Updated as of Jul 23 2012 06:59 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Filipino-Korean lawmaker Jasmine Lee visited the country over the weekend, the first time since she was became the first naturalized Korean elected to South Korea's parliament last April.

Lee arrived in Manila on Saturday for a two-day visit, where she met with the local Korean community and Filipino veterans of the Korean War.

In an interview with, Lee said being an immigrant herself she has found a connection not only with foreign immigrants living in South Korea, but also Koreans who are living overseas.

"I found a connection with immigrants within Korea, and with Korean immigrants in the Philippines. I know how difficult it can be to live in a different country. I also know how difficult it can be for a Korean to live here," she said.

Lee and fellow lawmaker Won Yoo-cheol sought to encourage South Koreans living in the Philippines to register for overseas absentee voting for the national elections in December. Registration started at the South Korean embassy on Sunday.

A member of the ruling New Frontier Party, Lee said the party is working to get more overseas Koreans to register for absentee voting and to vote in December.

She noted there was a low turnout for absentee voting during the April elections. There are some 90,000 South Koreans living in the Philippines, but only around 900 voted as absentee voters.

Lee began her four-year term at the National Assembly last month. She was elected as a candidate of the conservative New Frontier Party, headed by Park Geun-hye, daughter of the late Korean president Park Chung-hee and one of the leading candidates in the presidential elections in December.

While she is seen as an advocate for multiculturalism in South Korea, Lee also wants to help overseas Koreans, especially first-generation immigrants.

"It's about time that we don't overlook first-generation Korean immigrants," she said.

Lee, who moved to Seoul in 1995 after marrying a Korean, said she knows the feeling of being an immigrant in a foreign country first hand.  She became a naturalized Korean citizen in 1998.

"I know the sentiments of being an immigrant... I found the common thread. I can be a speaker for immigrants in Korea. I can see both sides. I can also help Korean immigrants (in other countries)," she added.