MALAYA: Pinay makes historic run for Korean legislature

March 29, 2008

A FILIPINA has put herself in South Korea’s history books for being the first foreign-born citizen to run for a seat in the country’s National Assembly.

Ambassador Luis Cruz reported that Judith A. Hernandez is the first candidate without Korean lineage to run for the Philippine equivalent of a congressional seat.”

Hernandez is running under the Republic of Korea Party in the general elections slated on April 9.

Originally from Cavite, Hernandez arrived in South Korea in the mid-90s and married a Korean national.

Hernandez, now a widow and taking care of two teenage children, is a community leader in Seongnam, a city less than an hour from Seoul and deals with programs for the welfare of migrant workers, foreign spouses, and their children.

There were some 70,000 Filipinos in South Korea as of last year. Many of them are married to Korean citizens.

According to Cruz, Hernandez said South Korea might no longer be seen as the “hermit kingdom” and her entry into politics “possibly signals changes in perception and a more accepting view of foreigners.”

Cruz said South Koreans are warming up to the candidacy of Hernandez, who is now seventh or eighth out of more than 20 hopefuls.

Under South Korea’s election laws, Hernandez has two ways of securing a seat in parliament: through direct election and through proportional representation based on the number of seats won by the party in the election.

Cruz said Hernandez’ advocacies have brought attention to the plight of migrant workers and foreign spouses, and has spurred debate on multiculturalism.

“Regardless of the outcome of the elections, Hernandez is already a winner,” said Cruz.

Before her foray into politics, Hernandez founded a “multicultural kindergarten” for racially-mixed children, a project which won the support of Lions Club International and was featured by the Seoul Broadcasting System, one of country’s largest radio and television networks.