Appropriation Or Appreciation? Unpacking South Korea’s Fascination With Black Culture

by MR Magazine Staff

When Koreans ask Hyun-Min Han whether he is African or American, they’ll find themselves surprised to learn that he is actually from Itaewon — a vibrant district in Seoul known for its barbecue restaurants, upscale bistros and nightlife — and that his parents are Nigerian and South Korean. “I get all the attention as soon as I step out onto the street,” the biracial fashion model tells i-D. “It’s because I’m tall, skinny and dark-skinned. It can definitely be inconvenient,” he says, “but I’ve grown used to it.” There’s a reason for the behaviour Hyun-Min describes. South Korea is one of the most homogeneous countries in the world. According to World Atlas, ethnic Koreans constitute for 96 percent of the population, affording locals few opportunities to interact with other nationalities without going abroad. The country also remains fiercely nationalistic — something that can be traced back to the Japanese occupation in World War II — which has left many with certain attitudes towards those they consider “outsiders.” Read more at i-D.