Melissa Lee

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Melissa Lee

Melissa Lee.jpg
Member of the New Zealand House of Representatives
Assumed office
Constituency National Party List № 37 (2008~2011)
№ 34 (2011~2014)
№ 31 (2014~present)
Personal details
이지연 (Lee Ji-yeon)

c. 1966 (age 5253)
South Korea
Nationality South Korea
New Zealand
Political party New Zealand National Party

Melissa Ji-Yun Lee (Korean : 이지연, Lee Ji-yeon; born c. 1966) is a New Zealand politician. She was elected to the House of Representatives as a list MP for the National Party in the 2008 election. As of 2018 she is the National Party's spokesperson for broadcasting, communications, digital media, and ethnic affairs. [1]

Korean language Language spoken in Korea

The Korean language is an East Asian language spoken by about 77 million people. It is a member of the Koreanic language family and is the official and national language of both Koreas: North Korea and South Korea, with different standardized official forms used in each country. It is also one of the two official languages in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture and Changbai Korean Autonomous County of Jilin province, China. It is also spoken in parts of Sakhalin, Ukraine, and Central Asia.

New Zealand House of Representatives Sole chamber of New Zealand Parliament

The New Zealand House of Representatives is a component of the New Zealand Parliament, along with the Sovereign. The House passes all laws, provides ministers to form a Cabinet, and supervises the work of the Government. It is also responsible for adopting the state's budgets and approving the state's accounts.

2008 New Zealand general election election

The 2008 New Zealand general election was held on 8 November 2008 to determine the composition of the 49th New Zealand parliament. The conservative National Party, headed by its parliamentary leader John Key, won the largest share of votes and seats, ending nine years of government by the social-democratic Labour Party, led by Helen Clark. Key announced a week later that he would lead a National minority government with confidence-and-supply support from the ACT, United Future and Māori parties. The Governor-General swore Key in as New Zealand's 38th Prime Minister on 19 November 2008. This marked an end to nine years of Labour Party government, and the beginning of the Fifth National Government of New Zealand which would govern for 9 years, until its loss to the Labour Party in the 2017 general election.


Early life and career

Lee was born in South Korea and grew up in Malaysia before moving to Australia and then to New Zealand in 1988 with her family. She has a MA Hons (First Class) in Communication Studies. Based in Auckland, She spent twenty three years in journalism including a five-year stint at the Sunday News and writing for numerous publications including The New Zealand Herald and The Listener . [2] She was also the producer of the TV magazine series, Asia Downunder . [3]

South Korea Republic in East Asia

South Korea, is a country in East Asia, constituting the southern part of the Korean Peninsula and sharing a land border with North Korea. The name Korea is derived from Goguryeo which was one of the great powers in East Asia during its time, ruling most of the Korean Peninsula, Manchuria, parts of the Russian Far East and Inner Mongolia under Gwanggaeto the Great. Its capital, Seoul, is a major global city and half of South Korea's over 51 million people live in the Seoul Capital Area, the fourth largest metropolitan economy in the world.

Malaysia Federal constitutional monarchy in Southeast Asia

Malaysia is a country in Southeast Asia. The federal constitutional monarchy consists of 13 states and three federal territories, separated by the South China Sea into two similarly sized regions, Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia. Peninsular Malaysia shares a land and maritime border with Thailand and maritime borders with Singapore, Vietnam, and Indonesia. East Malaysia shares land and maritime borders with Brunei and Indonesia and a maritime border with the Philippines and Vietnam. Kuala Lumpur is the national capital and largest city while Putrajaya is the seat of federal government. With a population of over 30 million, Malaysia is the world's 44th most populous country. The southernmost point of continental Eurasia, Tanjung Piai, is in Malaysia. In the tropics, Malaysia is one of 17 megadiverse countries, with large numbers of endemic species.

Australia Country in Oceania

Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands. It is the largest country in Oceania and the world's sixth-largest country by total area. The neighbouring countries are Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, and East Timor to the north; the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to the north-east; and New Zealand to the south-east. The population of 25 million is highly urbanised and heavily concentrated on the eastern seaboard. Australia's capital is Canberra, and its largest city is Sydney. The country's other major metropolitan areas are Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, and Adelaide.

Member of Parliament

New Zealand Parliament
2008 2011 49th List 37 National
2011 2014 50th List 34 National
2014 2017 51st List31 National
2017 present 52nd List31 National

In November 2008, Lee became a List MP in the New Zealand Parliament. Her maiden speech included sections in English, Māori, and Korean. In English, she mentioned crime, education, and anti-Asian racism issues in New Zealand. In the Māori section, she mentioned the history of Māori first coming to New Zealand by canoe from Hawaiki and compared it to her own migration to New Zealand by aeroplane. Near the end of her speech, she thanked, in Korean, all the people that had given her support "simply by virtue of [their] shared heritage". [4]

A maiden speech is the first speech given by a newly elected or appointed member of a legislature or parliament.

Māori language Polynesian language spoken by New Zealand Māori

Māori, also known as te reo, is an Eastern Polynesian language spoken by the Māori people, the indigenous population of New Zealand. Closely related to Cook Islands Māori, Tuamotuan, and Tahitian, it gained recognition as one of New Zealand's official languages in 1987. The number of speakers of the language has declined sharply since 1945, but a Māori language revitalisation effort slowed the decline, and the language has experienced a revival, particularly since about 2015.

Canoe light boat that is paddled

A canoe is a lightweight narrow vessel, typically pointed at both ends and open on top, propelled by one or more seated or kneeling paddlers facing the direction of travel using a single-bladed paddle.

Lee became the second Korean, and first Korean woman, to win election to a non-Korean national legislature. (The first Korean elected to a foreign national-level office, Jay Kim, became a member of the United States House of Representatives in 1992.) [5]

Jay Kim American politician

Chang Joon "Jay" Kim is a Japanese Korea-born American politician and former member of the U.S. House of Representatives from California and ambassador for Korean-American relations. He was the first Korean American to be elected to the United States Congress.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of more than 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

United States House of Representatives lower house of the United States Congress

The United States House of Representatives is the lower house of the United States Congress, the Senate being the upper house. Together they compose the national legislature of the United States.

A poll conducted between 10 December 2008 and 19 April 2009 by the Spanish newspaper, 20 minutos (20 minutes) ranked Lee as the world's 51st most beautiful female politician. [6] [7]

<i>20 minutos</i> Spanish online newspaper

20 minutos is a Spanish free newspaper, with local editions in several Spanish cities, published by Multiprensa & Mas S.L..

First term and Mt Albert by-election, 20082011

During the first months of entering Parliament two Conscience votes were taken, Melissa Lee voted against the Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill[ citation needed ] and the Liquor Advertising (Television and Radio) Bill. [8]

On 16 April 2009, Lee announced her candidacy for the National Party nomination in the 2009 Mount Albert by-election. [9] She defeated the previous local National candidate, Ravi Musuku, to win selection for the National Party on 4 May 2009. [10]

On 13 May 2009 Lee told a candidates' meeting that the SH20 Waterview Connection could divert criminals from South Auckland away from the electorate. Lee apologised the next day, saying "if South Auckland people (find) my comments offensive, I apologise. It wasn't about them. It was about criminals." Prime Minister John Key later said the remark was a "stupid statement to make". [11] Later that day she apologised again saying, "I apologise unreservedly for the comments I made regarding South Auckland... I sincerely regret my remarks." [12] In the by-election, Lee attracted only 3,542 votes, coming a distant second to Labour's David Shearer's 13,260 votes. [13]

During the by-election, allegations were made in May 2009 that Lee's production company Asia Vision had spent New Zealand on Air money making a promotional video for the National Party ahead of the 2008 election. Lee called the allegations "ridiculous", saying that all work on the video was done by volunteers. The Green Party referred the video to the Electoral Commission, saying that it should have been declared as an election expense. [14] [15] An investigation conducted by New Zealand on Air later cleared Lee of the charge of misuse of funding. [16]

Later in 2009 Lee used NZ$100,000 of contingency funding to increase the markup for Asia Downunder in violation of her contract with New Zealand on Air, which she described as "an innocent error". [17]

In April 2011 Lee courted controversy when, after she had made a speech supporting the controversially rushed-through copyright law 92A, [18] it emerged that hours earlier she had tweeted "Ok. Shower... Reading ... And then bed! listening to a compilation a friend did for me of K Pop. Fab. Thanks Jay" [19] which appeared to contradict her stance on law 92A. [20]

Second term, 20112014

During the 2011 general election, Melissa Lee increased her electoral vote in the Mt Albert electorate but failed to unseat David Shearer, who retained the seat by a margin of 10,021 votes. [21]

On 20 December 2011 John Key announced that Lee and John Hayes would become Parliamentary Private Secretaries, a role not in use for several years. [22] Key appointed her to the portfolio of Ethnic Affairs, given the heavy workload of Judith Collins as the newly appointed Minister of Justice. In January 2014, Lee was appointed Chairperson of the Social Services Select Committee. [1]

There were several conscience votes during the 50th Parliament surrounding issues of the legal alcohol purchase age and Same-Sex Marriage. In these votes Lee voted against the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Act 2013 [23] and voted in favour of retaining the Alcohol Purchase age at 18 in the Alcohol Reform Bill.[ citation needed ]

Third term, 20142017

During the 2014 general election, Melissa Lee failed to win the Mt Albert electorate. Her Labour opponent David Shearer retained the seat by 10,656 votes, a moderate decrease on the previous election but substantially increased the party vote, winning the party vote by 3536. [24] [25]

After the 2014 election, Lee was appointed to Chair the Commerce Select Committee while also retaining her position as Parliamentary Private Secretary for Ethnic Communities, the position being renamed to reflect the change in name of the eponymous Ministry and Minister, Lee has been joined by Jacqui Dean as a Parliamentary Private Secretary since the retirement of John Hayes at the 2014 Election. Lee also has one Private Members Bill waiting to be drawn from the ballot: the Accident Compensation (Recent Migrants and Returning New Zealanders) Amendment Bill. [26]

Fourth term, 2017present

During the 2017 general election in mid-September 2017, Melissa Lee was re-elected on the National Party List. [27] Lee stood against Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern in the Mt Albert electorate but was defeated by a margin of 15,264 votes. [28] Following the formation of a Labour-led coalition government on 19 October 2017, the National Party became the main opposition party in Parliament. Lee is currently the National Party's spokesperson for broadcasting, communications, and digital media, and ethnic communities. She is also a member of the Economic Development, Science and Innovation select committee. [1]

In March 2018, Lee challenged the Broadcasting Minister Clare Curran about her undisclosed meeting with Carol Hirschfield, the head of content at Radio New Zealand. [29] Curran initially claimed the meeting had been coincidental but later admitted that it had been prearranged. Lee accused Curran of engaging in a cover-up. [30] [31]

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