Kaoshiung Mayor Han clarifies 'Maria' comment about Filipinos

Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu says his use of term 'Maria' was meant to be a metaphor, not to insult Filipinos

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Han Kuo-yu

Han Kuo-yu (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- In response to an uproar within the Filipino community in Taiwan over his use of the derogatory term "Maria" to refer to citizens from the Philippines, Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) explained his use of the word at a press conference yesterday.

Yesterday afternoon (March 7), during a press conference, Han said that his use of the term was a metaphor and not meant to be discriminatory. He said that the challenge is persuading Kaohsiung parents to accept the promotion of bilingual education, and he used the word "Maria" (瑪麗亞) as a metaphor for the response parents would likely have when communicating with them on the subject.

Han said that if Kaohsiung invited Filipinos to teach English, the question would be how to overcome the "psychological obstacle of parents." He said the Philippines actually has many great English teachers, but he said many parents respond to the notion of hiring Filipino teachers by saying, "Why don't you hire American, Australian, British? Why do you hire neighboring Filipinos?"

Han tried to explain that "although parents have a psychological obstacle, Filipino foreign language experts are already very advanced." He said that the key is to figure out how to convince parents of this.

Han said the question is, if the city hires foreign teachers from the Philippines, "would Kaohsiung parents accept this?" He then explained that he used the word "'Maria' as an expression [metaphor]."

The mayor said that in fact, "we of course would like to go to the Philippines to recruit some excellent foreign language talent." He then went on to say that the Philippines already has a population of 90 million, and it has had decades of English education with "many great teaching talents."

Han said that when he used the word "Maria," it did not have "other meanings," rather, he said his meaning was that when promoting bilingual education, "would Kaohsiung parents accept it? He concluded that "This will take communication."

When asked by a reporter if the use of the term "Maria" was meant to be a discriminatory joke, he said, "Of course not." He said that he just meant that he needed to communicate with parents, and this was just an example of such a conversation.

When asked to respond to complaints that he was already traveling abroad too often, Han then said someone even claimed he was drunk "300 days a year." He then joked that "he underestimated it. There are 365 days in the year. The only day I don't drink is Lunar New Year's Eve, the rest of the 364 days I'm drunk. Do you think that's possible? Could that be an exaggeration?"

Han was referring to allegations earlier this week by Taoyuan City Councilor Wang Hao-yu (王浩宇) that he was drunk "300 days a year" when he was president of the Taipei Agricultural Products Marketing Corporation (TAPMC).