'You came from South Korea': Irvine vice-mayor confronted with xenophobic questioning at council meeting

·3 min read

On Tuesday, Irvine Vice-Mayor Tammy Kim was subjected to racism and xenophobia during a council meeting for a project to build a veterans cemetery in the city.

About the meeting: City officials held a meeting on Tuesday to discuss the site where they would put an Orange County veterans cemetery, according to Voice of OC.

  • After hours of debate, lawmakers voted four to one that Gypsum Canyon would be the official area for the cemetery and not Irvine. Councilman Larry Agran was reportedly the only council member to vote against the Anaheim Hills site.

  • Kim voiced her support for the project in July, OC Register reported. “I’m ready to support this site,” Kim said. “We need to do this for our veterans.”

Racist attack: During the meeting, a man identified as Eugene Kaplan, a member of the group of residents who are pushing for Irvine as the site of the cemetery, took to the podium and began expressing xenophobic remarks against Kim, LAist reported.

  • “You came from South Korea. How do you feel about the 36,574 Americans who died trying to save your country for freedom to allow you to come here and prevent it being overrun by North Koreans and Chinese,” Kaplan, a supporter of Agran, said.

  • “This is my country,” Kim said, interrupting Kaplan in his speech as attendees showed their support for the politician by round of applause. “This is my country, and I am an American,” she shouted while Kaplan attempted to repeat his previous statement.

  • “Yeah, you're American because you're lucky enough to live to get here,” Kaplan said in his reply to Kim.

The aftermath: Many constituents later condemned Kaplan’s remarks against Kim, including Mayor Farrah Khan and Councilman Mike Carroll.

  • “On behalf of the City of Irvine, I think I speak for my colleagues here. I apologize to everyone in this room. I apologize to my friend, my colleague and my political opponent Tammy Kim for the racism displayed here tonight, which is despicable, disgusting, unwarranted,” Carroll said in the meeting.

  • In a statement the following day, Kim said: “At last night’s City Council meeting, I was the target of hostile racist attacks by supporters of one of my council colleagues who questioned my citizenship, my patriotism, and my right to be on the dias [sic]. As a Korean American, Asian American and a proud Irvine resident, I condemn all forms of racism and will speak out against Anti-Asian hate and those who attack our immigrant communities.”

Featured Image via Tammy Kim for Irvine City Council (left), @josie_huang (right)

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