Meet South Korea’s First Black Model: Han Hyun-min

While biracial offsprings seem to be a commonplace in modern day marriages, some countries still remain largely homogeneous, making the occurrence of such a tad bit weird and seemingly out of place.

Mentioning countries like South Korea would bring up generic images of asians of the same colour inhabiting their cities in millions, with one not even pausing to think that there could even be biracial asian children in their mix.

Enter, Han Hyun-Min; a 15-year-old biracial kid whose has both Korean and Nigerian parents and is a budding Korean model.

Han is 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, Al Jazeera reports.

Lanky looking Han 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.

The high school student is lanky having a “distinct look”; a rare commodity in the domestic market and a victim of prejudice.

“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 with fans sometimes approaching him on the street to take selfies with him.

He says while he appreciates the positive attention, his success comes on the heels of what is often a “difficult life” for people like him.

Al Jazeera also reports that Han who was born to a Korean mother and Nigerian father, has only ever lived in South Korea.

He admits to “not knowing much” about Nigerian culture.

Growing up in Itaewon, a Seoul neighbourhood that’s long been an enclave for migrants, Han says he has many friends who are “mixed blood”, the literal translation of the Korean term for “biracial”.

But that diversity didn’t spare Han from bullying.

“Some classmates used to say things like, ‘You have a Korean mum, so why do you look black?’” he recalls. “I got a lot of dirty looks and I felt people were disgusted by me.”

But Han says he doesn’t dwell on those unpleasant memories, preferring to focus on his budding career instead.

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