Korean-Nigerian model breaks through barriers

Han Hyun-min, a young up-and coming Korean-Nigerian model, has fought racism to become one of the most exciting new faces in the Korean fashion scene.

The 16-year-old has taken the Korean fashion world by storm with world domination sure to be his next move.

Hyun-min shot to fame as the country’s first Korean-African model and walked in 11 shows at last year’s Seoul Fashion week.

Born to a Nigerian father and Korean mother, Han Hyun-min was raised in Korea and refuses to be called anything but his Korean name.

While some designers won’t hire Hyun-min because of his skin colour, he knows it’s his uniqueness that sets him apart from other models.

“My strength lies in my different look from others,” he told The Korea Times.

“I look different from my outer appearance and I have a different skin colour, which I find the best.”

Hyun-min got his big break when he was signed to appear for Han Sang-hyuk at the opening of his Heich Es Heich label.

The young model would practise walking in huge heels at gay clubs in Korea to prepare for the runway whose clothes would be gender neutral.

‘I could not believe I participated in the show. I’ve never learned to walk as a model and I only watched them on shows on YouTube,’ he said.

Racism in Korea

Before one show he was supposed to appear in Hyun-min was replaced last minute with another model because the designer said he did not work with black models.

Hyun-min takes this kind of racism in his stride.

‘People would not talk to me backstage at fashion shows because they thought I didn’t speak Korean. But once they learned I did, people start to gather around me and talk to me,’ he said.

‘I would participate in the rehearsals and coordinators there yell out orders in English only to me. I would wait until the end and tell them I don’t speak English so please talk to me in Korean.’

The 16-year-old’s dream is to move to neighbouring Japan in hopes of expanding his career.

‘Also, there are many black models in Europe. My ultimate goal is Japan, where people don’t look at me interestingly,’ he said.