South Korean lawmaker criticised for calling Africa ‘primitive’
Comments draw strong backlash from Korean NGOs representing the country
By Lee Jin-a
South Korean representative Lee Eun-jae of the conservative minor Bareun Party has come under fire for describing the outcome of a parliamentary meeting “as primitive as Africa.”
“The National Assembly is still very primitive,” she said. “I feel deeply ashamed by the fact that our standing committee did such a thing, which is something that can only happen in places like Africa.”
The lawmaker made the comment at a parliamentary meeting on January 20, during which a bill designed to ban the government from publishing history textbooks was endorsed with the overwhelming support of liberal lawmakers. Lee claimed liberal lawmakers railroaded the bill without thorough discussion, especially with minor parties such as hers. The bill is now pending at the Legislation and Judiciary Committee.
Her comment instantly drew a strong backlash from Africans and Africa-related NGOs.
“We find her comments such as ‘very primitive’ and ‘something that can only happen in places like Africa’ significantly defamatory and incorrect,” said Africa Insight, a Seoul-based NGO. It wants the lawmaker to apologize publicly for the comment.
The NGO said Lee showed “utter disrespect to African countries” that have strong diplomatic ties with Korea. It also said the lawmaker has “offended more than 16,000 expatriates from African countries in Korea.”
Africa Insight said “classifying 54 countries as one nation reinforces racism and prejudice against African people.”
Lee has not decided whether to apologise.