Kim Chil-doo, 65, South Korea's first senior model attends practice session with young models in Seoul. (Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji)

Life on the Catwalk, A New Chapter for Aging South Koreans

Modeling into the fashion industry has become a ‘fresh air’ and new hope for many elderly South Koreans.

As one of the fastest aging populations in the world, senior citizens in South Korea are venturing into unconventional late career opportunities—modeling is just one most popular among all. Thanks to 65-year-old Kim Chil-do, who made his debut at Seoul Fashion Week last year making him as South Korea’s first senior fashion model. Kim’s success in the industry had inspired and prompted seniors to pave the same way to this new career opportunity by flocking to modeling school.

Met during his training session at an academy in Seoul earlier this month, Kim said that becoming a model has been a childhood dream for him and he’s glad to finally do the thing he always desired. “Being a model is really fun. Senior is just a label”, the new star in fashion magazines told Reuters.

Reuters also reports that about two dozen people who are mostly in their late 50s and 60s gathered at a welfare center located in Songpa of the southeastern Seoul on a recent weekday afternoon. They came to attend the weekly catwalk training, hoping to emulate Kim.
The unconventional opportunities offer South Korean seniors a fresh hope to make end meets after retiring, where they usually take low-paying blue collar jobs to support themselves. In addition to modeling, other seniors have also become YouTube starts or signed up to teach Korean to K-pop fans overseas on an online basis.

With its high numbers of the aging population, South Korea is currently encountering a socio-economic problem where half of the elderly citizens live in poverty. Despite being the fourth largest economy in Asia and having rapid development, elderly poverty in the rich nation is the highest among members of the Organizations for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).