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Can I teach English in South Korea with tattoos?

Can I Teach English in South Korea with Tattoos?


South Korea is a popular destination for those who wish to teach English as a foreign language. However, the country has strict cultural and societal norms that should be considered by those who plan to work there. One of the most pressing concerns for many foreign teachers is whether having tattoos will affect their chances of being hired.

The Cultural Significance of Tattoos in South Korea

Tattoos in South Korea have traditionally been associated with gang culture and criminal activity. Although attitudes towards tattoos are slowly changing, they are still often viewed negatively by many people in the country. This is especially true among older generations.

The Perception of Tattoos in the Workplace

The perception of tattoos varies from workplace to workplace in South Korea. Some employers may not mind if their employees have tattoos, while others may view them as unprofessional or even offensive. English language schools, in particular, tend to have stricter dress codes and may not allow visible tattoos.

The Hiring Process for English Teachers

The hiring process for English teachers in South Korea usually involves submitting a resume, undergoing an interview, and obtaining a visa. Some employers may require a criminal background check or a health check as well. The presence of tattoos may be mentioned during the interview or it may not come up at all.

Legalities of Tattoos in South Korea

There are no specific laws that prohibit people with tattoos from working in South Korea. However, there are certain professions where tattoos are prohibited by law, such as police officers or military personnel.

Advice for Teachers With Tattoos

If you have tattoos and are planning to teach English in South Korea, it is important to do your research before applying for jobs. You may want to consider covering up your tattoos during the interview process or asking potential employers about their policies regarding tattoos.

The Importance of Cultural Sensitivity

As a foreign teacher in South Korea, it is important to be aware of and respectful towards the country’s cultural norms. This includes being mindful of your appearance and how it may be perceived by others. It is also important to remember that you are representing your home country and should strive to be a positive role model.

The Role of Personal Expression

Tattoos are a form of personal expression and can be an important part of one’s identity. While it is important to respect cultural norms in South Korea, it is also important to be true to yourself. If having visible tattoos is important to you, there may be English teaching jobs that are more accepting of this.

Alternative Routes for Teaching English in South Korea

If you are concerned about how your tattoos may affect your chances of being hired as an English teacher in South Korea, there are alternative routes you can consider. For example, you may be able to teach English online or work as a private tutor.


In conclusion, whether or not you can teach English in South Korea with tattoos depends on a variety of factors. While tattoos may still be viewed negatively by some people in the country, attitudes towards them are slowly changing. It is important to do your research and be aware of cultural norms before applying for jobs. Ultimately, the decision to cover up or display your tattoos is up to you.


1. “South Korea – Cultural Etiquette.” Global Affairs Canada, Government of Canada, 23 Feb. 2018.
2. “Tattoo Taboo: South Koreans Share Their Ink Stories.” BBC News, 27 Nov. 2019.
3. “Can I Teach English in South Korea with Tattoos?” Teach Away, 2018.
4. “Tattoos in South Korea: Taboo or Trend?” The Culture Trip, 30 July 2019.
5. “South Korea Tattoo Laws: What You Need to Know.” WSE Travel, 27 Nov. 2019.

Can you get a teaching job in Korea with tattoos?

In South Korea, having tattoos or piercings does not disqualify someone from teaching, but it is expected that tattoos be covered while in the classroom and piercings be removed while working. This is a general guideline that is enforced.

Can English teachers have tattoos?

Having tattoos all over your body or a visible facial tattoo may make it difficult to find employment in some schools, as they may be hesitant to hire individuals who cannot conceal their tattoos.

Are tattoos acceptable in South Korea?

In South Korea, only licensed medical professionals are allowed to operate tattoo parlors, while those without medical degrees cannot. However, there is no law against having a tattoo, except in the military where it is prohibited. Individuals can get tattoos after completing their military service.

Will I get hired as a teacher if I have tattoos?

Certain schools may consider hiring teachers with discreet visible tattoos, while others may refuse to employ teachers with tattoos altogether. To determine whether you are eligible to teach at a specific institution, it is advisable to inquire about their tattoo regulations and if they have any specific guidelines in place.

Is it OK for teachers to have tattoos?

As a teacher, having a tattoo is generally acceptable, but some schools may have policies requiring them to be covered. It’s important to check with the principal or school head to determine the specific guidelines in place.

Can you teach English in China with tattoos?

In China, it is often believed that having visible tattoos as a foreign teacher is not acceptable. Many people have asked me how I can be a teacher with tattoos, but the truth is that tattoos are not relevant to one’s ability to teach in China.

As tattoos become more mainstream and accepted in many parts of the world, it is possible that attitudes towards tattoos in South Korea may continue to evolve. However, it is important to remember that cultural norms can take time to change and that respecting these norms is a key part of being a responsible and effective teacher in any foreign country.

It is also worth noting that attitudes towards tattoos may vary depending on where you are in South Korea. For example, larger cities like Seoul may be more accepting of tattoos than smaller, more traditional towns. This is something to keep in mind if you are considering teaching English in a specific location in South Korea.

Ultimately, the decision to get a tattoo or display existing tattoos while teaching English in South Korea is a personal one. If you are passionate about teaching in this country, it may be worth exploring alternative routes or finding employers who are more accepting of visible tattoos. On the other hand, if covering up your tattoos during the interview process and while at work is not a major concern for you, there are certainly opportunities available.

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