Tattoos in Korea

Tattoos in Korea

The first time I was invited to check out one of Seoul’s tattoo parlors my first thought was, “Aren’t tattoos illegal in Korea?” Apparently not because today I find myself at yet another tattoo shop in Korea. This one is called Sun Rat and it’s in Hongdae. As it turns out tattooing in Korea is very much alive and legal. They just require the tattoo artist to a licensed medical doctor first. You know, because why would I want an artist creating masterpieces on my arms when I can have a doctor drawing stick figures on my lower back! Luckily for y’all a lot of places with real artists (who still religiously adhere to all safety regulations like any good tattoo artist would) blatantly ignore that little rule. They can do this because the enforcing of that little law is loose at best.

However, I wouldn’t run out and get one just yet. First, think of your mother, and no not how good the word Mom would look on your bicep. Think of the company that tattooed people keep! I’ve seen these people and they aren’t the kind of guys you’d want next to you in the jimjilbang pool. I know your next question is why is this apple pie cute American girl keeping company with gangsters, thugs, and untrustworthy tattooed people then? Well obviously it’s because I’m a gangster thug! However, don’t get your hopes up that I’m unladylike boys because this belle is tattoo free (as of right now). You know, that way I can still get out of the thug life before it’s too late!

But seriously, those are the stereotypes a lot of older Koreans associate with tattoos, (gangs, unladylike, untrustworthy) but anyone younger than 40 will tell you it’s just not true. Yes tattooing used to be used in Korea to show which gang to belonged to, but then the key word here is USED TO. It’s the same in the States, Japan, etc, but we’ve moved on from that and yes Mrs. Adjumma Korea has too.  Personally I can appreciate a good tattoo, even though personally I don’t see myself getting one any time soon. They can mean a lot of things to a lot of different people and are a beautiful way to express yourself if done well. These little tattoo shops popping up around Seoul prove the minds of younger Koreans are opening to the possibilities of tattoos. I just hope the rest of Korea follows too. 🙂


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