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Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert apologizes after insulting Korean American constituent

“A Facebook troll who hides behind symbols and doesn’t list their name, is a coward,” mayor of Omaha, Nebraska Jean Stothert said on her Facebook page this week. 

The mayor’s comment was directed against a Korean American woman who commented on Facebook after the city imposed a curfew in response to the protests over the killing of George Floyd at the hands of a White police officer. The woman, Soyeon Sohn, used the Korean alphabet for her name, prompting the racially insensitive response from the Republican mayor, reports NBC

The mayor later apologized, admitting she did not recognize the “symbols” as the Korean alphabet.  

Sohn, adopted at 4-months-old, was raised in Hastings, Nebraska, and told NBC that she has grappled with issues of identity and heritage throughout her childhood. According to NBC local affiliate WOWT 6 News, Sohn expressed she was hurt by the mayor’s comments.  

Soyeon Sohn said the mayor’s comments caught her off guard.

“I was caught off guard more than anything,” Sohn said. “A public official making that statement publicly on her own Facebook page degrading a citizen — that’s just uncalled for and unprofessional.”

According to WOWT 6 News, when asked whether she would issue an apology on Tuesday, the mayor said no. However, the mayor reportedly formally apologized to Sohn at the end of a Wednesday news conference about the end of the city’s curfew. 

“On Facebook the other day, I made a comment that I shouldn’t have made. It was inappropriate, and I will apologize,” Stothert said.

She further explained her mistake, saying “I referred to her not using her name because I saw these symbols or letters, but they were Korean.”

Following a groundswell of outrage after the mayor’s comment, the reply has since been deleted from her Facebook page. Commenters have also been quick to point out the mayor’s flagrant ignorance of unknowingly insulting someone for their name, reports NBC

In addition to the apology to Sohn, the Korean Association of Nebraska told NBC that an hour before the Wednesday news conference, the mayor wrote a letter “admitting her mistake and taking responsibility for her comments.” 

“I apologize to Ms. Sohn and all who were offended,” Stothert wrote in the letter. “It was not my intent to question her background or heritage.”

According to NBC, David Kang, president of the organization, has accepted the apology and plans to meet with the mayor and Sohn at the mayor’s office on Friday.

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