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Can foreigners get tattoo in Korea?

Can foreigners get tattoo in Korea?

South Korea is known for its rich cultural heritage, delicious cuisine, and technological advancements. However, when it comes to tattoos, the country has had a complicated relationship with them. In this article, we will explore whether foreigners can get a tattoo in Korea.

The History of Tattoos in Korea

Tattoos have been present in Korea for centuries, with evidence dating back to the Three Kingdoms era (57 BC – 668 AD). However, tattoos have had a negative connotation in Korean culture and were associated with criminals and the lower class.

The Modern Tattoo Industry in Korea

In recent years, tattoos have become more popular among young Koreans and foreigners alike. However, the Korean government still considers tattooing as a medical procedure and requires artists to have a medical license. This law has made it difficult for aspiring tattoo artists to open their shops legally.

Foreigners and Tattooing in Korea

Foreigners can get a tattoo in Korea, but they may face some challenges. Since most tattoo shops operate illegally due to the medical license requirement, finding a reputable and safe shop can be difficult. Additionally, some shops may refuse to work with foreigners due to language barriers or cultural differences.

The Legal and Cultural Implications of Tattooing

In Korea, tattoos are still associated with criminal activity and are often stigmatized. Some job sectors such as the military, police force, and public schools forbid employees from having visible tattoos. It is important for foreigners to be aware of these cultural norms before getting a tattoo in Korea.

The Risks of Getting a Tattoo in Korea

As with any tattoo, there are risks involved with getting inked in Korea. Since the tattoo industry is not well-regulated, there is a higher risk of infections, allergic reactions, and other complications. It is crucial to do thorough research and choose a reputable shop to reduce these risks.

How to Find a Tattoo Shop in Korea

There are several ways to find a tattoo shop in Korea. One way is to search online for English-speaking artists and shops. Another option is to ask for recommendations from expat groups or community forums. It is also essential to visit the shop in person and check their hygiene practices, portfolio, and customer reviews.

The Tattoo Process in Korea

The tattoo process in Korea is similar to other countries. However, due to the medical license regulations, some artists may not be able to use certain ink colors or techniques. It is essential to communicate your design preferences clearly and ask questions before getting started.

Tattoo Aftercare in Korea

Proper aftercare is crucial for a successful tattoo, regardless of where you get it. In Korea, some shops may provide aftercare instructions in English, but it is best to ask beforehand. It is also essential to avoid activities such as swimming or saunas that may irritate the tattoo while it heals.

The Cost of Getting a Tattoo in Korea

The cost of getting a tattoo in Korea varies depending on the size, design, and location. However, due to the underground nature of the industry, some shops may charge higher prices than others. It is important to discuss pricing with the artist beforehand and avoid shops that offer suspiciously cheap rates.

The Future of Tattooing in Korea

The Korean government has shown some signs of loosening its restrictions on tattoos. In 2019, the Ministry of Health and Welfare proposed a law that would classify tattooing as a cosmetic procedure rather than a medical one. If passed, this law could make it easier for artists to open legal shops and provide more choices for customers.


Foreigners can get a tattoo in Korea, but it is important to be aware of the legal and cultural implications. Finding a reputable shop and practicing proper aftercare can help reduce the risks involved with getting inked in Korea. While the future of tattooing in Korea is uncertain, it is clear that tattoos have become more accepted and popular among younger generations.

Is it OK to have tattoos in South Korea?

In South Korea, only licensed medical professionals are allowed to open tattoo shops according to the law, rather than individuals without medical degrees who specialize in tattoo artistry. However, having tattoos is not illegal in the country, except for those serving in the military, who are not permitted to have them. After completing their service, military personnel are free to get tattoos.

How much does it cost to get a tattoo in Korea?

Tattoo studios typically have a minimum charge for their services, even for small tattoos. Prices can range from 20,000 krw for a small design to over 1,000,000 krw for larger, more intricate pieces. It’s important to keep in mind that quality often comes with a higher price tag.

How old do you have to be in Korea to get a tattoo?

Similar to many other states in the United States, South Korea requires a minimum age of 18 for getting a tattoo. In order to get a tattoo earlier, Young lied and told the artist she was 20. By the time Young reached the age of 20, she was already in college studying fashion.

Can Americans get tattoos in Korea?

In South Korea, it is not against the law to have a tattoo and it is common to see young people with them. However, getting a tattoo is illegal as it is considered a medical service and can only be performed by licensed medical practitioners under Korean law.

How do Koreans view tattoos?

Historically, tattoos were often seen as a form of punishment or a way to denote ownership. In Korea, during Japanese occupation, tattoos were adopted by gangs as a way to identify themselves, similar to the yakuza. Today, older Koreans may struggle to distance themselves from the negative cultural and legal associations with tattoos.

Can Korean girls get tattoos?

Despite being banned in South Korea, some courageous women there choose to get tattoos for the sake of art. It is not against the law to have tattoos in the country, but it is illegal to practice tattooing as a profession.

It is worth noting that tattoo culture in Korea is still evolving, and attitudes towards tattoos are gradually changing. Some young Koreans have embraced tattoos as a form of self-expression and individuality, and there are even some Korean celebrities who sport tattoos. However, tattoos are still not widely accepted in mainstream Korean society, and those with visible tattoos may face discrimination or negative attitudes.

Another factor to consider when getting a tattoo in Korea is the language barrier. While some tattoo artists may speak English, many do not, and communication can be challenging. It is essential to bring a translator or communicate your design preferences clearly to avoid misunderstandings.

Additionally, it is crucial to consider the potential legal consequences of getting a tattoo in Korea. While foreigners may not face the same legal restrictions as Korean citizens, they are still subject to Korean laws. It is essential to research the legal implications of getting a tattoo in Korea and follow all necessary procedures.

Overall, getting a tattoo in Korea can be a unique and exciting experience for foreigners. However, it is crucial to be aware of the cultural, legal, and health implications involved. By doing proper research and finding a reputable shop, foreigners can safely and successfully get inked in Korea.

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