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Can I get a tattoo in Korea as a foreigner?


Getting a tattoo has become a trend and a form of self-expression for many people around the world. However, when traveling to a foreign country, it is important to know if getting a tattoo is legal and accessible. This article will focus on the question, “Can I get a tattoo in Korea as a foreigner?” and provide comprehensive information for those interested.

Tattoo Culture in Korea

Tattoos have been stigmatized in Korea due to their association with criminal organizations. Even today, tattoos are often associated with gangsters and delinquents. This negative image has led to regulations and limitations on tattooing.

Legal Status of Tattooing in Korea

Tattooing is not illegal in Korea, but it can only be performed by licensed medical doctors. This means that most tattoo artists are operating illegally and face fines or imprisonment if caught. The law is enforced irregularly, but foreigners should be aware of the potential consequences.

Tattoo Shops in Korea

Despite the legal restrictions, there are many tattoo shops in Korea where foreigners can get inked. These shops usually have English-speaking staff and cater to foreign customers. However, it is important to research the shop’s reputation before deciding to get a tattoo.

Choosing a Tattoo Shop

When choosing a tattoo shop, consider factors such as cleanliness, safety, and professionalism. Look for reviews online or ask for recommendations from other expats or locals. It is also important to communicate clearly with the artist about your design and expectations.

Tattoo Prices in Korea

Tattoo prices in Korea vary depending on the size and complexity of the design. Generally, prices start at around 50,000 won ($45 USD) and can go up to several hundred thousand won for larger pieces. Foreigners may be charged more than locals, so it is important to negotiate and ask for a quote beforehand.

Tattoo Aftercare

Proper aftercare is essential for the healing process and to prevent infections. The tattoo artist should provide instructions on how to care for your new tattoo, but general tips include keeping the area clean and dry, avoiding direct sunlight, and avoiding soaking in water.

Tattoo Removal in Korea

If you decide to get a tattoo in Korea but later regret it, there are options for removal. Laser removal is the most common method, but it can be expensive and painful. It is important to research clinics and consult with professionals before deciding on a removal method.

Cultural Considerations

When getting a tattoo in Korea, it is important to be respectful of the culture and avoid designs that may be offensive or insensitive. For example, getting a tattoo of the Korean flag or political figures may be seen as disrespectful.


Getting a tattoo in Korea as a foreigner is possible, but it requires careful research and consideration. While tattoos are becoming more accepted in Korea, there are still legal restrictions and cultural stigmas to be aware of. By choosing a reputable shop and following proper aftercare, you can safely enjoy your new ink in Korea.



Is it OK to have tattoos in South Korea?

In South Korea, only medical professionals who are licensed are allowed to open tattoo shops, while those without medical degrees are not permitted. However, having a tattoo is not against the law, except for in the military where it is prohibited. After completing their service, individuals are allowed to get tattoos.

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

The cost of a tattoo is determined by its size, color, and design. Based on my personal experience, prices typically range from 150,000 won to 300,000 won.

Can people get tattoos in Korea?

On Thursday, the Constitutional Court in Seoul upheld the ban on tattooing, which means that South Korea is the only advanced country where only medical professionals can legally perform this procedure. This ruling was confirmed on March 31, 2022.

What age are you allowed to get a tattoo in Korea?

In South Korea, the legal age to get a tattoo is 18, but Young pretended to be 20 in order to get one. When she actually turned 20, she was attending college for fashion but struggled with depression and eventually stopped going to class.

Can Americans get tattoos in Korea?

Although tattoos are not prohibited in South Korea and are commonly seen on young people, actually getting a tattoo is against the law. The reason is that, according to Korean law, tattooing is considered a medical procedure and can only be performed by a licensed medical professional.

How do Koreans view tattoos?

Historically, tattoos were often perceived as a form of mutilation or punishment, and even used as a symbol of ownership. During the period of Japanese occupation, Korean gangs adopted the style of the yakuza and used tattoos to indicate their gang affiliation. This association with criminality and cultural norms has made it challenging for older Koreans to distance themselves from these connotations.

Alternative Options

For those who are hesitant to get a permanent tattoo, there are alternative options available in Korea. Temporary tattoos, such as henna tattoos, are a popular choice among tourists and can be found in many markets and shops. Additionally, there are temporary tattoo stickers that can be easily applied and removed without any pain or commitment.

Health Risks

As with any tattoo, there are health risks associated with getting inked in Korea. Illegal tattoo shops may not follow proper sterilization procedures or use safe materials, which can lead to infections and other complications. It is important to choose a reputable shop and ask about their sterilization practices before getting a tattoo.

Tattooing Laws in Other Countries

If you plan on getting a tattoo while traveling to other countries, it is important to research their tattooing laws and regulations. Some countries may have strict laws against tattooing, while others may only allow it to be done by licensed professionals. It is also important to consider cultural implications and avoid designs that may be offensive or disrespectful.

The Future of Tattoo Culture in Korea

While tattoos may still be stigmatized in Korea, there has been a recent shift towards acceptance and appreciation of the art form. More young people are getting tattoos as a form of self-expression, and some celebrities and public figures have even openly displayed their ink. It is possible that the negative stigma surrounding tattoos will continue to decrease in the future.

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