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How do Koreans view tattoos?


Korea is a country with a rich cultural heritage, and the way Koreans view tattoos is deeply rooted in their history and traditions. In recent years, there has been a growing interest in tattoo culture, especially among the younger generation. However, tattoos are still not widely accepted in Korean society, and there are many misconceptions and stereotypes surrounding them.

Historical Context

To understand how Koreans view tattoos, it is essential to look at the historical context. In ancient times, tattoos were associated with criminals and outcasts and were used as a way to mark them as such. Later on, tattoos became popular among soldiers as a symbol of bravery and loyalty. However, during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), tattoos were banned as they were seen as a sign of barbarism.

Modern Attitudes

Today, attitudes towards tattoos in Korea are slowly changing. While tattoos are still perceived negatively by many people, especially the older generation, there is also a growing acceptance of tattoos as a form of self-expression. Tattoos are becoming more visible in Korean pop culture, with many celebrities sporting tattoos.

Religious Beliefs

Religion plays an important role in Korean society, and some religions have specific views on tattoos. For example, in Buddhism, tattoos are seen as a form of self-mutilation and are discouraged. In Christianity, some people believe that tattoos go against the idea of the body being a temple of God.

Social Stigma

Despite the changing attitudes towards tattoos in Korea, there is still a social stigma attached to them. Many employers have strict dress codes that prohibit visible tattoos, and people with tattoos may face discrimination or judgement from others.

Legal Issues

In Korea, it is legal to get a tattoo, but only if the tattoo artist is licensed. However, there have been cases where tattoo artists have been fined or even arrested for operating without a license. This has led to a rise in illegal tattooing, which can be dangerous as there are no regulations in place to ensure safety and hygiene.

Gender Differences

In Korea, there are also gender differences when it comes to tattoos. Historically, tattoos were seen as a masculine thing, and women with tattoos were seen as promiscuous or rebellious. Today, while attitudes are changing, women with tattoos still face more scrutiny than men.

Tattoo Culture

Despite the challenges, there is a growing tattoo culture in Korea. Many young people see tattoos as a way to express themselves and stand out from the crowd. Tattoo conventions and expos are becoming more popular, and there are even tattoo museums in some cities.

Foreign Influence

Korea has a long history of being influenced by foreign cultures, and tattoos are no exception. In recent years, there has been a growing interest in Western-style tattoos, which are often seen as more artistic and creative than traditional Korean tattoos.

Traditional Korean Tattoos

Traditional Korean tattoos, known as irezumi or horimono, have a different meaning than Western-style tattoos. They are often used to symbolize membership in a particular social group or to ward off evil spirits. However, these types of tattoos are not as common today as they once were.

Tattoo Taboos

In Korea, there are also certain taboos surrounding tattoos. For example, it is considered disrespectful to get a tattoo of a deity or religious figure. It is also frowned upon to get a tattoo of someone’s name or face unless it is a tribute to a deceased loved one.

The Future of Tattoos in Korea

As attitudes towards tattoos continue to evolve in Korea, it is likely that we will see more acceptance of tattoos in the future. However, there is still much work to be done to change the negative stereotypes and misconceptions surrounding tattoos. It is up to the younger generation to challenge these attitudes and pave the way for a more accepting and diverse society.

Is it OK to show tattoos in Korea?

Although nonmedical practitioners are prohibited from tattooing, displaying tattoos in public is not unlawful. Kim stressed that it is unreasonable to require individuals to conceal their tattoos at multiuse facilities simply because others find them unpleasant. In South Korea, only medical doctors are permitted by law to perform tattooing.

Are tattoos popular in Korea?

Tattoos are still considered a significant cultural taboo in South Korea, making it the only developed nation where tattooing is illegal unless practiced by a licensed medical doctor. This holds true as of October 23, 2021.

Why do Korean shows blur out tattoos?

South Korean TV censors content that is deemed violent or socially unacceptable, including tattoos which are often associated with gangs and therefore not positively accepted in the country. Similarly, knives are also subject to censorship.

Should I get a tattoo in South Korea?

While it is not against the law to have tattoos in South Korea, it is illegal to get one. This is because the act of tattooing is considered a medical service and only authorized medical practitioners are permitted to perform it. Despite this, many young people in South Korea still choose to have tattoos.

Can foreigners get tattoos in Korea?

Even with limitations in place, it is still possible to get a tattoo in Korea without facing legal consequences. Only the tattoo artists are subject to charges. If you want to support this rebellious art form, you can book an appointment with a South Korean tattooist by following these steps, which include painting squares.

Why can t kpop idols show their tattoos?

Performers in South Korea are required to conceal any visible tattoos during their performances through the use of clothing or flesh-colored patches. This is likely due to the country’s strict cultural norms regarding tattoos, which are illegal unless performed by a licensed medical professional.

Tattoo Removal

With the growing acceptance of tattoos in Korea, there has also been an increase in the number of people getting tattoos. However, some people still regret their tattoos and want them removed. Tattoo removal clinics are becoming more common in Korea, but the process can be expensive and painful.

Hygiene Concerns

One of the main concerns surrounding tattoos in Korea is hygiene. With the rise of illegal tattooing, there are no regulations in place to ensure that tattoo studios follow proper hygiene practices. This has led to cases of infections and other health problems resulting from poorly done tattoos.

Education and Awareness

To change attitudes towards tattoos in Korea, education and awareness are key. There needs to be more information available about the risks and benefits of getting a tattoo, as well as the proper procedures for safe tattooing. By educating people about tattoos, we can help dispel myths and stereotypes and promote a more accepting society.

Tattoo as Art

Tattoos are not just a form of self-expression but can also be considered works of art. Many tattoo artists in Korea have gained recognition for their intricate designs and unique styles. The rise of tattoo culture in Korea has also led to an increase in demand for tattoo-inspired merchandise such as clothing, accessories, and even home decor.

Tattoo and Identity

For many people, tattoos are a way to express their identity and individuality. This is especially true for marginalized groups such as LGBTQ+ individuals, who use tattoos as a way to reclaim their bodies and identities. As attitudes towards tattoos continue to evolve in Korea, it is important to recognize the role that tattoos play in shaping individual identity.

The Impact of Social Media

Social media has played a significant role in changing attitudes towards tattoos in Korea. Platforms like Instagram and TikTok have made it easier for people to share their tattoos and connect with others who share their interests. This has helped to normalize tattoos and make them more visible in Korean society.

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