SEOUL (Reuters) – Boasting an overgrown beard and grey wavy hair, 65-year-old Kim Chil-doo glared into the wall, poised and confidant, as he practiced his runway walk among young, pin-thin models at an academy in Seoul earlier this month.
Kim became South Korea’s first senior fashion model last year, realizing his lifelong dream with a charismatic debut at Seoul Fashion Week.
Money - Kim - Reuters - Model - Senior
“This was what I wanted to do when I was young, but gave up to make money, and I thought maybe it’s worth trying even now,” Kim told Reuters. “And I’m glad I did it – being a model is really fun. Senior? It’s just a label.”
In a country with the world’s fastest ageing population, many elderly South Koreans like Kim are venturing into unconventional late career opportunities.
Seniors - Schools - Back - Kim - Success
Seniors have flocked to modeling schools on the back of Kim’s success. Others have become YouTube stars or signed up to teach Korean to K-pop fans overseas.
The trend has offered fresh hopes to the elderly, many of whom take low-paying, blue collar jobs to support themselves after retiring. Almost half of South Korean baby boomers live in poverty – the highest among members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Weekday - Afternoon - Dozen - People - 50s
On a recent weekday afternoon, about two dozen people, mostly in their late 50s to 60s, gathered at a welfare center in Songpa in southeastern Seoul for weekly catwalk training, hoping to emulate Kim, now an up-and-coming star in commercials and fashion magazines.
For You Sung-lae, 59, her unfulfilled childhood dream of being an actress and interest in fashion led her to sign up for the course.
Feels - Youth - Birth - Age - Yoo
“Learning modeling feels like reviving my youth that I could not enjoy because I got married and gave birth at a very young age,” Yoo said, donning a cobalt blue jacket, orange stiletto heels and designer sunglasses.
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