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SSC Newspaper : August 2012
By Peter Lynch S ang Ok came to Sydney as a student of politics 28 years ago – and immediately spotted a gap between his fellow countrymen and what he describes as “Australian mainstream society”. He joined Korean cultural groups and strove to help his fellow migrants with language and other difficulties. Now, the 58-year-old father of two daughters hopes to get elected to Strathfield Council and use his position to act as “a bridge”, and to encourage younger Koreans like daughters Bo-Hyea and Inky to join him. A car wash owner and manager at a lobby group chaired by Liberal Party executive Joe Tannous (whose brother Pierre is another Liberal candidate), Ok has plans for a Korean garden, and perhaps even a community centre. But he strongly rejects any idea that his number two position on the Liberals ticket is in any way tokenism. At the last election, Ok received just 11 of the Liberals 3960 votes. But he remains undaunted. “I decided to become a councillor so I can provide a motive for the younger generation to contribute more to Australian politics,” he maintains. “I play the role of a bridge to link the Korean community with the mainstream and other ethnic communities.” Ok is, surprisingly given the political divide, an admirer of what retiring Labor councillor Keith Kwon has achieved. Kwon became august 2012 8 Strathfield Scene Politics the race is on: who “I decided to become a councillor so I can provide a motive for the younger generation to contribute more to Australian politics.” — Liberal candidate Sang Ok Members of the Liberal Party at a recent fundraising event ( from left): Yateender Gupta (supporter); Rajiv Bandula; Sang Ok, Bo-Hyea Ok; Gulian Vaccari; Strathfield MP Charles Casucelli; Pierre Tannous. Cultural & language diversity in strathfield (2011 Census) Ancestry strAthfIeLd % new south wALes % AustrALIA % Chinese 6913 17.3 378,465 4.3 866,208 3.1 Australian 3668 9.2 2,217,158 25 7,098,486 25.4 Indian 3326 8.3 138,687 1.6 390,894 1.4 Korean 3180 8 51,611 0.6 88,973 0.3 English 3132 7.8 2,151,788 24.2 7,238,533 25.9 origins include Greek, Italian, Lebanese, Indian, Korean and Anglo Saxon. Labor has also covered the ground well, with a ticket led by Raj Datta and another Indian, three Australians and a Chinese. In fact, Labor leader Raj Datta has opened a website, rajdatta.com, maintaining his position make it “the first time a first-generation migrant of Indian Subcontinental heritage has been pre- selected to lead a council ticket by a major political party in Australia, to my knowledge.” Regarding the office of mayor, there have been Chinese (Alfred Tsang in 2004), and Lebanese community leaders (Tony Maroun in 2009-11) who have worn the mayoral chain. Australia’s first Korean mayor when he led Strathfield Council in 2008. But Ok maintains he has no mayoral ambitions of his own. Strathfield electors – despite a heritage that includes 17 per cent Chinese, eight per cent Indian, eight per cent Korean and only nine per cent Australian – remain largely unmoved by political parties who play the multicultural card. That said, both the Liberals and Labor are fielding tickets which boast a strong presence of candidates with Chinese, Italians, Greek and Lebanese heritage. Indeed, Liberal’s number one ticket holder Gullian Vaccari, an Ashfield chemist owner of Italian heritage, is proud of the fact that he has covered off the ethnic vote with six Australians whose Perhaps surprisingly, there is only one other Korean in the field at these elections – Thomas Kim of the Unity Party. The party was set up in 1997 during the heated debate caused by Pauline Hanson and was designed to give ethnic groups a voice. Tsang was its leader until he had to quit over corruption allegations involving a council car park development. Unity has been a regular at Strathfield polls but, despite its origins, won only 5.8 per cent of the vote at the last election. Leader Kam Ha “Pinkie” Leung says in her election pamphlets she would push for a council liaison officer to provide efficient and planned ser vices for migrants. “To this regard, in my team I have candidates from Korean, Vietnamese and Anglo Australian backgrounds to support residents to have a better lives,” she says. Whether such a multi-racial candidates list moves the voters remains to be seen. “[This is] the first time a first- generation migrant of Indian Subcontinental heritage has been pre-selected to lead a council ticket by a major political party.” Raj Datta, Labor leader A culturAl breAkdown of the 29 cAndidAtes: 13 AustrAliAns 4 indiAns 3 itAliAns 3 Chinese 2 KoreAns 2 lebAnese 1 GreeK 1 VietnAmese