Han Hyun-min: “I hated my looks that stand out from everyone else.”
Seoul, South Korea — Han Hyun-min, 16, becomes the first black model in South Korea and he is rising star in the fashion industry.
Meanwhile, South Korea has a widespread problem with racism in the country. Individuals with a darker skin tone have a hard time adjusting to everyday life in South Korea because it is difficult for black people to get jobs, make new friends, or find intimate relationships.
Discrimination is transparent in many Asian countries. Dark skinned people are teased in public or people stared for an extended period. Many businesses will refuse entry or service if the individual has a darker skin complexion.
South Korean's first black fashion model is 🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/CMjHt2hBXT
— AJ+ (@ajplus) July 12, 2017
While growing up in South Korea, the 16-year-old battled with his identity because he has a South Korean mother and Nigeran father. South Koreans heavily criticize multiracial children for not resembling the white standard.
“When I was playing with other kids at school, some mothers whisked them away from me, saying things like, ‘Don’t play with a kid like that’,” said Hyun-min.
Kids would torture Hyun-min in grade school and use racial epithets such as “tuigi,” when means cross-bred animals.
Fashion became Hyun-min’s outlet and escape from reality. He began uploading pictures on social media and participating in modeling auditions. When he was 14 years-old, Hyun-min signed to a modeling company with the help of his agent, Youn Bum, according to Daily Mail UK.
At first, Bum was hesitant and knew that Hyun-min’s ethnicity would cause controversy in South Korea. But he knew Hyun-min’s looks would change the climate of the fashion industry in South Korea.
“A dark-skinned fashion model like Han was unheard of in South Korea, so recruiting him was a big gamble,” said Bum.
Both Hyun-min and Bum were blackballed by designers, magazine editors, and photographers, some even encouraged Youn to recruit white models instead. However, it did not stop Hyun-min from chasing his dreams of becoming a super model.
A group of designers thought Hyun-min’s features were “unique” and “charismatic” and since his debut, he has participated in 30 shows during Seoul Fashion Week.
“Being a fashion model helped build my confidence tremendously. Now I enjoy being looked at by other people, instead of being ashamed or embarrassed,” said Hyun-min.
Hopefully, Hyun-min opens the doors for other multiracial models who to become in the fashion industry.