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It isn't easy being a Kiwi - Korean MP

New Zealand's first Korean MP, Melissa Lee, told Parliament today it wasn't easy being a proud Kiwi.

Ms Lee explained in her maiden speech that her parents left Korea more than 30 years ago to make a new life for herself and her brother.

"I may not have been born here, I may not even have been brought up here, but I've made a commitment to become a New Zealander and I'm a proud carrier of a New Zealand passport," she said.

"This is a privilege and I'm proud to call myself a Kiwi, but not all New Zealanders would accept that I'm a Kiwi.

"Because of my skin colour, I will forever be a foreigner."

Ms Lee, a National Party list MP, said those attitudes had to change.

"We are too small a nation to be divisive. We must work together to decide who we are as a nation."

The former journalist and businesswoman said Korean settlement in New Zealand was relatively new and she was often confronted by misconceptions about Korea, formed out of ignorance and by television programmes like M*A*S*H*.

"When people have preconceived ideas of what you're like, settlement in New Zealand can be paved with tears," Ms Lee said.

And in an obvious reference to New Zealand First, she said she was pleased to be making her maiden speech at a time when New Zealand had chosen to reject "a particular party" whose policies gained support from people who disliked her simply because of her ethnic heritage.

"Call it irony or just a fortunate turn of events, with the exit of that party comes the first minister of Asian origin in the cabinet," she said.

She was referring to Pansy Wong, a minister in the new cabinet.

Ms Lee used her maiden speech to cover the plight of abused children and the safety of individuals.

She said she had been the victim of home invasion when she was confronted by two men in balaclavas, one with a gun and the other with a hammer.

"I don't feel safe in my own home, let alone in the street," she said.

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Comments and questions


Good luck to Ms. Lee, I'm happy to call her a Kiwi, and I hope she goes well in parliament.

She might want to have a look though at how non-Koreans and mixed race Koreans are treated in her country of birth. She may then realise that she doesn't actually have it too bad here. Most NZers would be happy to call Ms. Lee a Kiwi. As much as I like Korea, no matter how much I attempted to assimilate, or how long I lived there, I would always be treated as an outsider.

Asian MPs in Kiwi Parliament,
U guys (Asian Mps) r so lucky to be living in NZ.
Can u see anyone of any Kiwi and/or white-MPs in the parliaments of Asia?
Has anyone seen someone of Caucasian Mps in the law-making industries of India, China, Korea, Japan and Malaysia?
There are uncountable racist’s cases and racial discrimination in Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Korea, not only in Western world.
If here is not easy, why don’t you go back to Korea and run an election?
Good luck for u to be Mps in Korea.

Off topic, but here's an example of how some businesses operate in Japan.

Would result in a prosecution if done in NZ. Asian migrants may have legitimate gripes about NZ, but I would like to see some of them at least acknowledge NZ's openness.

Like you said, you cannot see any kiwi or white MPs in parliaments in Asia. But why dont you change your view a little bit and think Melissa Lee and Pansy Wong had hard times overcoming the culture and became MP in New Zealand? They cannot go back to Asia because they spent 30 what years in New Zealand. They think like Kiwi in various ways. We, may have a different background but we chose to be a New Zealand citizen and New Zealand governmnet accepted our choice. Then as a NZ citizen, we obviously have our right to speak our own voice. I really hope that they will speak for Asians and minor ethnic groups. Just in case you may have forgotten, We, are part of New Zealand too. and we also want to give back too you know. We are not here to rob the country or just to learn English. We respect and love the country. That is reason for us staying here.
Thanks for reading

Speaking as a New Zealander by adoption I see the distinguishing feature not the way we look, but the way we speak. Kiwis by and large are colour blind, but place value on the way the foreign born espress themselves. Acquiring a NZ accent regardless of your place of birth, identifies one as belonging here. I can't see anything wring with this and feel very much accepted in this country and call myself a first generation New Zealander.

The fact that Ms Lee is 1) an MP, 2) in parliament does not mean racism doesn't exist. However, it does mean that individuals can rise above it. Perhaps Ms Lee would do better to focus on the positive and promote her success and what she has done to get where she is, rather than harp on about the negative aspects of racism which exists in all countries. Having travelled and worked extensively, i would consider NZ to be one of the most accepting counties in the world. Race, gender, sexual orientation etc. Now that we have a change of govt, lets take the opportunity to focus on how we can and have succeeded, rather than create an environment where excuses are used as a reason for failure or mediocrity.

Given Ms Lee's recent Clanger about south Auckland (re: brown people), who's the racist now? By the way I lived in Korea for 6 years and racism is an accepted fact of life there. Ask any Phillipino, Indian or African outside of Itaewon-dong. And you would NEVER see a caucasian MP there EVER. My God, there would be a national riot. Count your lucky stars lady.