Big Two On Hunt For Asian Votes

Big two on hunt for Asian votes

By Lincoln Tan
NZ Herald
4:00AM Thursday Sep 18, 2008

The two big parties are preparing to pitch for thousands of untapped votes from the Korean community this weekend.

National and Labour will push their policies and Korean-born candidates to more than 1000 voters expected to turn out for a political rally organised by the Korean Society at Westlake Boys High School on Saturday.

A Herald street poll of Asian voters in Takapuna, Northcote and Browns Bay, ahead of the first public multi-party political convention since the election date was announced, suggests National is the party of choice so far on the North Shore, with 52 per cent support, against 27 per cent for Labour.

National Party leader John Key is also their preferred Prime Minister on 50 per cent, while Helen Clark had 34 per cent support.

Most ranked law and order as the policy that would influence how they voted, followed by immigration and health.

National MP Pansy Wong is predicting New Zealand will see its first Korean-born member of Parliament on November 8.

“For Asian New Zealanders, this election will be a watershed, and is set to bring in the biggest number of Asian MPs New Zealand's Parliament has ever seen.”

Mrs Wong said: “If reports are true that only 2 per cent of Koreans voted in the last election, and in an MMP system where every vote counts, then this is really an untapped pool of voters.”

According to the last Census, there are 28,806 Koreans in New Zealand, making them the third largest Asian community after the Chinese and Indians.

With the latest TV One poll putting support for National on 53 per cent, its Korean-born list candidate Melissa Lee, at number 37, looks certain to be heading to Parliament.

Ms Lee, a former journalist and broadcaster, says New Zealand's immigration policy and requirements such as the high level of English discriminate against Koreans and have resulted in “terrible consequences” for the community.

“The economic conditions for Koreans in New Zealand are the worst they have ever been since our migration history began, and many say they just can't wait to have a change of Government,” Ms Lee said.

A spokesman for Ethnic Affairs Minister Chris Carter, who will be delivering the keynote address at the rally, said the minister was not available for comment yesterday.

However, Labour's Korean list candidate, Chris Yoo, who is number 53 on the party list, says it is “very narrow” for anyone to form an opinion based on one policy.

“Yes, they face hardship, but it is Labour's policies on social welfare like Working For Families that helped them through their hard times,” Mr Yoo said.

Music teacher Jean Park, who came to New Zealand from Seoul in 2005, says it will be “like striking a jackpot” for whichever party is able to sway Korean voters.

“Like sheep in New Zealand, many Koreans will vote how other Koreans vote, so it will likely be win one, win all.”

Korean Society director Kenneth Jeong said he expected at least 1500 people to come to the rally, and the early date was to give those who had not enrolled enough time, ahead of the October 8 deadline.

Other parties participating in the convention include New Zealand First, the Greens, Act and the Kiwi Party.

“It is very different from the last election, and Koreans are very excited this time,” Mr Jeong said.

“The community has matured, and most of us know that our future and destiny in New Zealand are in our own hands.”


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