South Korea’s first black model
Seoul, South Korea – Han Hyun-min strides down the runway with an expression of emotionless confidence, before pivoting around in front of the rows of photographers whose cameras click in rapid fire.
Han is 15 and fast becoming a regular on the catwalk, making his third appearance at the recent Seoul Fashion Week – a biannual event for South Korean designers. For one show, Han sported patched jeans and a plaid shirt partially covered by a puffy, silver vest.
The high school student is lanky. He has what Youn Bum, his agent at SF Models, calls a “distinct look”, making him a rare commodity in the domestic market – and a victim of prejudice.
Han is his country’s first black Korean model.
“People assume I’m a foreigner,” says Han, who only speaks the Korean language. “I’ve gotten used to it.”
Then he adds: “But I sometimes feel upset when Korean models backstage at a show don’t talk to me because they think I don’t understand Korean.”
Since his first runway show last year, Han has appeared on Korean television and his Instagram followers have surged to more than 26,000. Fans sometimes approach him on the street and ask to take selfies with him.
He says he appreciates the positive attention, but acknowledges that his success comes on the heels of what is often a “difficult life” for people like him.