MODEL SPOTLIGHT: Sungchan Kim

Great Lengths

Don’t let his long lush hair, piercing eyes, and charismatic presence fool you—this model’s personality is larger than life

Photos by: Daniel Kim

Story and styling by: Dianne Pineda-Kim

With english translation by Joo Wondae

Model: Sungchan Kim

Clothing: Youser

Shoes: Lost Garden

Grooming: Valentina Chang

Hairstyling and location: N2RAGE Barbershop

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A photograph captures the subject in his or her realest form. The best images become indelible records of transient moments, moods, and the general spirit of the time. But sometimes, a photo does not tell the complete story, one that’s far more intriguing than one scene or a person frozen in time.

This I realized a few years ago—2014 to be exact—when I chased after Sungchan Kim, whose long and fast strides overtook us as we navigated the crowded entryway of Dongdaemun Design Plaza during Seoul Fashion Week. At the time, I was with a fashion editor friend who made it a mission to take Instax shots of the hottest models and behind-the-scenes crazes during the week. To say we were squished and squashed by all the people scurrying to see the shows was an understatement. But even in these dire circumstances, we knew we just had to take a photo of “the male model with the long hair.” Dressed in all-black and with his hair styled in impeccable waves, Sungchan gracefully indulged our odd, probably impractical, request as he was rushing off to walk down another runway. He looked straight into the camera and gave us the most perfect glare. His cool, nonchalant, and tough exterior in the polaroid belied his outgoing, cheeky, and fun character, all of which he credits for his success as a model. “Fortunately, people seem to like me for who I am and as someone without pretense,” he reveals.

Double personality

Having made his debut as a fashion model in 2013, Sungchan got his mainstream break in the fifth cycle of "Korea's Next Top Model Guys & Girls," a spin-off of Tyra Bank’s reality TV competition “America’s Next Top Model.” Several models from Seoul’s leading agencies and rising talents joined the competition, all with stunning features and gleaming, camera-ready smiles.

But what made Sungchan stand out was his 4-D personality, which is more commonly known in Korea as someone who is eccentric and wacky but adorable nonetheless. He quips, “I was depicted as someone with a unique and strong personality and I am very much the same in person too!

He would make people laugh and wonder how he comes up with the things he says. This seems like a contradiction given his serious expression on camera, amplified by his smoldering eyes, high cheekbones, and strong features. But despite having the “look” that lands most models lucrative deals and instant fame, the reality of rejection in this competitive industry was something he couldn’t escape.

“Many people want to do what they want or love to do. But doing this is no picnic,” Sungchan shares. “Sometimes we have to let go of things. In the early stages of my career, I constantly reminded myself that ‘I can do this, I am an awesome person with a unique charm, and I am born to make it to the top’. This self-reminder made my days less hard than they should have been.” With every “no” he gets, he counters it with a positive affirmation: “I told myself that the role was just not for me and I will get an even more interesting position later.”

His real self

Pretty soon Sungchan proved his versatility as a model. He starred in music videos like “How Do I Look” by Beenzino and “Cosmic,” a duet by Ryeowook from Super Junior and Bada from S.E.S. He also participated in a campaign for the apparel and accessory brand Metrocity as the lead male model alongside Rosie Huntington Whiteley.

 As for the possibility of being an actor and expanding towards the international market, Sungchan always has his doors open. He brightens up at the thought, “If I have the chance to be an actor, I would do my best to show different characteristics of myself!” 

Having started modeling when Korean representation was lacking in the global fashion scene, Sungchan looks back at the immense progress and how the industry has changed since then. “Only a few years ago, when people saw Asian models, they always mistook them as Chinese, but recently fashion designers seem to specifically look for and recognize Korean models. You can see Korean flags on [international] runways and our language Hangeul is designed as a pattern in collections,” he explains. “I feel proud as a Korean when I see how Korea is being recognized all over the world.”

Nowadays, when he’s not posing in front of the camera or shooting commercials, he enjoys filming YouTube videos of his daily life through his eponymous channel. “I want to show a  comfortable side of myself, Sungchan Kim, full of humanity and humor and not as a high fashion model.”

LifestyleSean Choi