MANILA, Philippines - An anti-multicultural group in South Korea is reportedly behind accusations of "education forgery" against Filipina Jasmine Lee, who is hoping to be the first naturalized Korean citizen to be elected in Parliament.
The 34-year-old Lee is a proportional representation candidate for the ruling Saenuri Party in April's general elections. If elected, she will be the first Filipina and first ever naturalized Korean citizen who will become a legislator in South Korea.
The Dong-a Ilbo reported that a "quasi-witch hunt" was launched on Lee's educational background. The newspaper said the accusations made against Lee were first raised on an anti-multicultural Internet Korean forum last March 12.
The post on the anti-multicultural forum read: "I checked the Philippine education system to find that there is no high school (from which Lee claimed to have graduated). If (she) quit college, she even failed to graduate from high school. What can a Filipina who never finished high school do?"
The Korea Times reported that Lee "allegedly lied about entering a prestigious medical school in the Philippines" when she had only taken a pre-med course at Ateneo de Davao University.
But it seems the "education forgery" stemmed from a misunderstanding due to differences in the medical school system in the Philippines and South Korea.
The Dong-a Ilbo noted that "while Lee never attended medical school, but the department she studied at can be effectively considered medical school in Korea.” Lee was also quoted as saying. “Since all students from the department advance to medical college, I introduced myself by omitting the interim process.”
A Davao native, Lee was majoring in Biology when she met her future husband, Korean seaman Dong-ho Lee in 1994. She dropped out of school to marry Dong-ho in April 1995 and later moved to Korea.
There have been growing concerns about the rise of xenophobic Koreans, who have organized campaigns against migrant workers and immigrant wives. Several websites have launched an "anti-multiculturalism" movement, claiming that migrant workers take jobs from Koreans and commit crimes. Some anti-multicultural groups have also staged protests.
In South Korea, there has also been extreme scrutiny on the educational background of celebrities and politicians. For instance, popular Korean-Canadian singer Tablo faced false accusations from Korean netizens that he never graduated from Stanford University. Another prominent case involved Korean curator Shin Jeong-ah, who was found to have lied about obtaining degrees in the U.S., including a Ph.D. degree from Yale University.
Despite these criticisms being hurled against her, Lee is still poised to become the first naturalized Korean to enter Korean Parliament.
Lee is considered the most well-known figure for multi-cultural families and the Filipino community in South Korea. A resident of Seoul for 17 years, Lee became a naturalized Korean citizen in 1998.
Her husband Dong-ho died in 2010 while saving their daughter from drowning in a mountain stream in Okcheon-dong, Gangwon province.
Lee is secretary general of Waterdrop, a charity formed by foreign spouses of Koreans and the team manager of the Seoul Global Center.
Last year, Lee co-starred with Korean heartthrob Yoo Ah-in in the blockbuster hit "Wandeugi" (Punch) last year. Since 2006, she has appeared on the KBS program ``Love in Asia” and a Korean language program on educational channel EBS.