Jane Shin, Burnaby's newest MLA, called a meeting with key members of the Korean community to issue a tearful apology and to clarify some of the confusion surrounding her professional credentials.
The NDP MLA won the Burnaby-Lougheed seat despite biographical misinformation suggesting she was a practising doctor who had graduated from UBC, when she actually attended a medical school in the Caribbean and has never practised medicine.
Shin invited members of the Korean media and heads of prominent Korean organizations to a lunch presentation on Aug. 8 in Burnaby, where she apologized and reviewed her educational background.
"It was emotional because I wanted to apologize for any kind of heartache or disappointments that the community may have felt," Shin told the NOW. "I felt the community could have suffered unintentionally through that process. I felt it was time for me to come out and talk to them directly, talk about what happened and moving forward."
Shin said she apologized at the meeting for her "chinkasaurauses" comment, a disparaging remark she used to describe Chinese seniors on an online forum more than 10 years ago.
As the first Korean-Canadian to be elected to the B.C. legislature, Shin is representing not only her constituents, but the Korean community, as well.
"(The) Korean community in the Lower Mainland has had several unsuccessful attempts to have one of the Korean-Canadians elected to office. This time, when I was running, I had a lot of support from the community," Shin said.
However, the controversy surrounding Shin's campaign caused a rift in the Korean community, and several members called, wrote and emailed the NOW, upset with Shin's track record.
For the Aug. 8 meeting, Shin invited the Korean Cultural Heritage Society, Korean seniors' and women's groups, a Korean veterans' group and members of the Korean media.
The NOW contacted a reporter from Vanchosun, one of the Korean media outlets, who declined to comment as per company policy, and Grace Lee of the Korean Cultural Heritage Society, who confirmed she had attended the meeting, but asked us to call back and then didn't pick up the phone or return messages.
Shin said the meeting reflected a cultural sentiment, and that she wouldn't necessarily have expressed herself that way to other groups or ethnic stakeholders.
"Before (politics), maybe I had mom and dad as my parents, but now I feel I have thousands of people as my parents," Shin said. "When (the Korean community) saw me, they identified with me one way or the other, whether it was intentional or not, ... a lot of them have become my extended family in a sense."
Shin said she also clarified that she lives in Burnaby, given there were questions surrounding her address, and she clarified what she was doing during the last stretch of the campaign, when she was unavailable to media in the midst of the controversy.
"My intent was to connect with voters on the doorstep," Shin said.
At the Aug. 8 meeting, Shin also talked about what was happening in the legislature in Victoria and her role as deputy critic for small business, tourism, arts and culture, and that she was recently given the additional responsibility of multiculturalism. The meeting was covered in the Korean media, and one article included a picture of Shin crying.
"It was very emotional. I did shed a tear. I guess that's part of the toughening up that I need to work on," she told the NOW.
Shin has hired a constituency assistant but is still looking for a suitable space to set up her MLA office, which she hopes to have ready by October.
"I want to add more value to the residents of Burnaby-Lougheed, instead of looking for more exposure or visibility," she said, adding that she wants to compile information on available resources. "I'm looking for practical things residents can take advantage of."
Shin also said she wrote a U.S. medical licensing exam and passed, but she has not done her residency, which she would need to complete in order to practise medicine.
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