updated 24 Dec 2010, 08:28
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Thu, Nov 25, 2010
The Korea Herald/ANN
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Modeling arduous, but Korea friendly
by Hwang Jurie

Fashion models travel everywhere. They may be in Paris one day and in Tokyo the next -if that is where they are offered a job. But as soon as models choose to come to Korea, they discover that the work is underpaid and requires long hours.

Fashion models Federico Wainerman of Argentina, Vera Shatokhina of Uzbekistan and Maria Zagorodshay of Russia told The Korea Herald that they keep coming back to Korea because "it keeps calling them".

It has been five years since Shatokhina started her career as a model at age 14, but she will spend two years in Korea working as a model.

"I can't exactly explain what makes me come back here, but I think Korea has magical powers so that whenever I go back to Uzbekistan, I just keep wanting to come back. It's weird," she said

"It's the same for me, although I complain sometimes about the country, after months I have the urge to come to Korea, and if the opportunity comes for me to stay here, I want to stay longer in Korea," Wainerman said.

One belief about models in general is that they casually change clothes in public. In reality, models say they also feel bashful about changing in front of a crowd. Shatokhina appreciated the Korean tendency to protect their dignity -something not done everywhere.

"For example, when I was modeling in Taiwan, they made me change in front of everyone, but here in Korea, they are more concerned about covering the models, they see us as humans before models," she said.

Zagorodshay agrees that things like this make a big difference.

"Koreans are considerate in general, I've been to Hong Kong and other countries, but by far Korea is the most considerate for models," she said.

"Though the people are generally nice, the job is not so nice," Federico said. "Koreans work unduly hard. They are the most hard-working people I have ever worked with. They work longer, harder, and barely non-stop. I get physically worn out after work, and sometimes feel like I am working a lot more than in any other countries in the same given hours."

Wainerman explained that usually when the job ends before the scheduled time, it is common to call it a day, however clients in Korea try to fill up the left over time, asking models to pose for a new project, to a frazzle, which is "frankly not in the contract".

"They pay less too. In order to earn the equivalent salary in Korea, compared to other countries, we have to double the quantity of jobs," he said.

However, the nation is unusually welcoming of foreign models -the local market still tends to associate Western models and Western images with being luxurious. Advertisers hire them to associate their brands with better quality and prestige.

"That's why we sell, and have jobs here," Wainerman argued.

On the other hand, the models noted that admiration for Western models sometimes goes a little overboard in Korea.

"Did you know Koreans are nice, but too nice to the foreigners? When we smile or speak a little Korean, they forgive you for everything. One time, I had no helmet on when riding a motorcycle with a friend, the police did stop us but let us go, because I spoke some Korean," said Wainerman.

"I heard from a model friend that passing red lights, sidewalks and having no license was not a big problem here. I guess it could be a bit of an exaggeration, but still people say that," Wainerman said. "Though they say Korea is a globalised country, still many Koreans treat us differently because we are foreigners, it just doesn't seem very 'global.'"

But Shatokhina said the downsides would not put her off.

"It doesn't matter if Korean jobs are stressful. They're still very enticing for us, and we will certainly come back more often -though I can't really explain why," she said.

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