Filipina Jasmine Lee wins seat in S.Korea parliament

By Cathy Rose A. Garcia,

Posted at Apr 12 2012 12:31 PM | Updated as of Apr 12 2012 11:27 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Filipina TV host and actress Jasmine Lee has been elected as a lawmaker in South Korea's parliament. This makes Lee, a native of Davao, the first naturalized Korean citizen to win a seat in the National Assembly.

Lee was a candidate for proportional representation for the ruling Saenuri Party, which won a majority of 152 seats in the 300-strong assembly, election results on Thursday showed. The conservative party is 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.

The 35-year-old Lee was number 15 in the Saenuri Party's list of candidates for proportional representation. The party had included a naturalized citizen high on its list of proportional representatives, to gain the support of the majority of 110,000 foreigners who are now Korean citizens.

South Korea's National Assembly is similar to the Philippine Congress, where most of the members are elected in districts across the country. However, some 54 seats are elected through proportional representation, similar to the Philippines' party-list system. Political parties come up with a slate of candidates for proportional representation.

The Filipina-Korean's rise in politics has not been smooth, as anti-multicultural groups in Korea have raised criticisms against her.

Lee is an advocate for multicultural families and the Filipino community in South Korea.  She met her husband Lee Dong-ho when she was still a college student at Ateneo de Davao, and moved to Seoul in 1995. She became a naturalized Korean citizen in 1998.

Her husband 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 city government's Seoul Global Center.

Last year, Lee co-starred with Korean heartthrob Yoo Ah-in in the blockbuster hit "Wandeugi" (Punch), where she played the role of a Filipina married to a Korean. Since 2006, she has appeared on the KBS program "Love in Asia" and a Korean language program on educational channel EBS.

In December 2011, she was the first recipient of the Korea Image Millstone Award from the Corea Image Communication Institute. She was cited for her volunteer and charity works for foreign immigrants in Korea.

Earlier, Vice President Jejomar Binay said Lee “gives hope not only for Filipinos but for all migrants and immigrants”.

"We are all very proud that a full-blooded Filipino is being given the opportunity to be a member of the Korean Parliament," Binay told South Korean media. "It shows that Korea is prepared to extend the opportunity to become a public servant even to those who were not born here."