It is not every day one gets to hear about Nigerians working in South Korea, not to talk of a male model that is half Nigerian and half Korean.
But one model that is half Nigerian and half Korean is indeed making waves. His name is Han Hyun-min and he is the world’s first Nigerian- Korean fashion model. The 16 year old is now regarded has a rising star on South Korean catwalks.
But his rise to fame hasn’t been with free of challenges. Behind the facade of an economic and cultural powerhouse, there is a deeply-rooted racism in South Korea.
According to japantimes.co.jp, most foreigners in the country are from China and Southeast Asia, migrant workers or women who marry rural South Korean men unable to find local spouses willing to live in the countryside.
Discrimination against them is widespread. Many are openly mocked at public transport for being dirty or smelly, or refused entry to fancy restaurants or public baths.
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Han has also witnessed his fair share of racism. “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,’ ” he said. An elderly woman once asking him: “What are you doing in someone else’s country?” when that happened, Han said he wanted to disappear. “I wanted to become invisible, I hated my looks that stand out from everyone else,” he told Japantimes.
He found his escape in fashion, taking part in modeling auditions and posting his photos on social media until his agent Youn spotted the images. After seeing the then 14-year-old demonstrate his electrifying stride on a Seoul street for five minutes, Youn signed him up immediately.
“Being a fashion model helped build my confidence tremendously,” said Han. “Now I enjoy being looked at by other people, instead of being ashamed or embarrassed.”
He also hopes to become a role model for multiracial children. “I want to be more successful, not just for myself but also for people whom I represent.”
Watch bread seller turned model Olajumoke tell NAIJ.com how her life has changed since she became famous below: