One in a Million is a pale pink coffee shop in the heart of Seoul’s Itaewon neighborhood, staffed by a few beautiful male model baristas with the pithy tagline, “You are one in a million.” It is the perfect meeting spot for the standout Hyun Min Han, the 6-foot-2 biracial Korean spotted on every other runway this season and breaking down the country’s barriers.
It is here in Itaewon that Han, 15, has spent all his life, born to a Korean mother and Nigerian father who met in the neighborhood while working in trade. “I’ve always lived in Itaewon,” he says over coffee. “Here, there are a lot of people like me.” For years, Itaewon has held two reputations: One, as the waygook, or foreigner, neighborhood, brimming with delicious international cuisine; and two, as a “seedy” area, better avoided at night. Those two tend to go hand in hand here, a geographic indication of vestiges of the country’s narrow-minded worldview.
Yet things are changing. In recent years, Itaewon has become one of Seoul’s coolest spots, a hotbed for incredible curry and taco shops, Turkish halal, and home to the city’s club scene. On a Saturday night, one can barely push through the crowds, drawn to Itaewon’s unique vibrancy, which was first driven by immigrants. It is fitting, then, that at the same time, Han has quickly become one of Seoul’s top models. Last week saw him flit from a pale lavender suit at Münn to layered streetwear at Supercomma B, doing 16 shows in five days.
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