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Do you have to cover tattoos in South Korea?


South Korea is a country with a rich culture and history. In recent years, it has become a popular destination for tourists from all over the world. However, if you’re planning to visit South Korea and have tattoos, you may be wondering if you need to cover them up. This article will explore the topic of covering tattoos in South Korea and provide you with all the information you need to know.

The history of tattoos in South Korea

Tattoos have a long history in South Korea. Traditional tattoos, known as “Saet Byul,” were often used as a form of punishment or identification for criminals. However, tattoos have also been used as a way to express oneself and one’s identity. In recent years, tattoos have become more mainstream in South Korean culture.

The stigma surrounding tattoos in South Korea

Despite the growing popularity of tattoos in South Korea, there is still a stigma attached to them. Many people still associate tattoos with criminal activity and gang culture. As a result, some employers may discriminate against individuals with visible tattoos.

The law regarding tattoos in South Korea

There is no specific law in South Korea that requires individuals to cover their tattoos. However, some public spaces, such as hot springs and bathhouses, may prohibit entry to individuals with visible tattoos. Additionally, some private businesses may have their own policies regarding tattoos.

The cultural significance of covering tattoos

In South Korean culture, it is considered respectful to cover one’s tattoos when visiting certain places, such as temples or other religious sites. This is because tattoos are still associated with criminal activity and are seen as disrespectful in these settings.

The rise of tattoo culture in South Korea

Despite the stigma surrounding tattoos, there has been a rise in tattoo culture in South Korea in recent years. Many young people are getting tattoos as a form of self-expression and rebellion against traditional Korean values.

How to cover tattoos in South Korea

If you’re planning to visit South Korea and have visible tattoos, there are several ways to cover them up. You can wear long sleeves or pants, use makeup to cover them, or wear special tattoo cover-up sleeves.

The importance of respecting local customs and traditions

When visiting a foreign country, it’s important to respect the local customs and traditions. If covering your tattoos is considered respectful in South Korean culture, it’s important to do so out of respect for the culture and its people.

The role of social media in changing attitudes towards tattoos

Social media has played a significant role in changing attitudes towards tattoos in South Korea. Platforms like Instagram have allowed individuals to showcase their tattoos and challenge the negative stereotypes associated with them.

The future of tattoo culture in South Korea

As attitudes towards tattoos continue to evolve, it’s likely that tattoo culture will become more accepted in South Korean society. However, it may take some time for this change to occur.

The importance of understanding local laws and customs

As a traveler, it’s important to understand the local laws and customs of the places you visit. This includes understanding the cultural significance of tattoos in South Korea and being respectful of local customs when traveling there.


In conclusion, while there is no law in South Korea that requires individuals to cover their tattoos, it’s still considered respectful to do so in certain situations. Understanding the cultural significance of tattoos and respecting local customs is key when traveling to any foreign country. With this knowledge, you can confidently travel to South Korea with your tattoos without offending anyone or breaking any laws.

Do I have to cover my tattoos in Korea?

Tattooing performed by individuals without medical training is prohibited by law in South Korea, but displaying tattoos in public is not. Kim argued that it is unreasonable to require people to cover their tattoos in shared facilities just because others may dislike them. Only licensed medical professionals are permitted to perform tattoos in South Korea.

Is it OK to show tattoos in South Korea?

In South Korea, only licensed medical professionals are allowed to open tattoo parlors, unlike tattoo artists who do not have medical degrees. It is not against the law to have a tattoo, however, the military does not allow them. Individuals can get tattoos after their service in the military.

Is it illegal to show tattoos on TV in Korea?

In Korea, tattoos are not permitted to be displayed on TV, so many pop stars cover up their tattoos during performances. Additionally, some individuals who adhere to Korean Confucian beliefs believe that our bodies are gifts from our parents, further discouraging the display of tattoos.

Why do they cover tattoos in Korea?

Tattoos have a negative stigma in the country due to their historical association with criminal and slave markings. They later became associated with gangs, as members would proudly display tattoos as a symbol of their affiliation.

How do Koreans view tattoos?

Tattoos were once seen as a form of disfigurement, punishment, or sign of ownership. During Japanese occupation, Korean gangs adopted the yakuza style, using tattoos as a way to distinguish themselves. This association with criminality and cultural norms make it challenging for older Koreans to detach from these connotations.

Can tourists get tattoos in Korea?

In South Korea, tattoos are not widely accepted, particularly among the older generation. Although getting a tattoo is legal, it is still considered taboo. However, there are many skilled tattoo artists in Seoul.

It’s also worth noting that the popularity of tattoos in South Korea has led to a rise in the number of tattoo artists and studios. While there are still some legal restrictions on the practice of tattooing, it’s becoming more mainstream and accepted. Many Korean tattoo artists are gaining recognition for their unique styles and innovative designs.

However, it’s important to note that getting a tattoo in South Korea can be more complicated for foreigners. Some studios may require proof of residency or a Korean ID card to book an appointment. It’s also essential to research the studio and artist before getting a tattoo to ensure they follow proper hygiene and safety protocols.

Overall, while there may be some stigma and cultural significance surrounding tattoos in South Korea, it’s still possible to enjoy the country’s rich culture and history while proudly displaying your tattoos. With respect for local customs and a willingness to learn, you can have a fulfilling and meaningful experience in this beautiful country.

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