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Is it OK to have tattoos in South Korea?

Is it OK to have tattoos in South Korea?

The History of Tattoos in South Korea

Tattoos have a long history in South Korea, dating back to the Three Kingdoms period. In this era, tattoos were used to mark criminals as punishment. Later on, tattoos became popular among gangsters and prisoners. In recent years, however, tattoos have become more mainstream and are seen as a form of self-expression.

The Perception of Tattoos in South Korea

Despite the growing acceptance of tattoos, they are still seen as taboo in certain parts of South Korean society. Many employers and businesses prohibit visible tattoos, and some people still associate them with criminal activity or gang membership.

The Legal Status of Tattoos in South Korea

Tattoos are legal in South Korea, but only when performed by a licensed medical professional. This means that tattoo artists who do not have a medical license are technically operating illegally. However, enforcement of this law is inconsistent.

Tattoo Culture in South Korea

Despite the challenges facing tattoo artists and enthusiasts in South Korea, there is a vibrant tattoo culture in the country. There are numerous tattoo shops and conventions, and many artists are gaining international recognition.

The Role of Celebrities in Changing Attitudes Towards Tattoos

In recent years, several high-profile celebrities have publicly displayed their tattoos, helping to shift attitudes towards the art form. For example, BTS member Jungkook has multiple tattoos that he often shows off on stage, sparking conversations about tattoos among younger generations.

Challenges Faced by Tattoo Artists in South Korea

Tattoo artists in South Korea face numerous challenges due to the stigma surrounding tattoos. Many shops operate underground or without licenses, meaning that they could be shut down at any time. Additionally, tattoo artists are often forced to work in secret or underground locations, making it difficult to attract customers.

Changing Attitudes Towards Tattoos Among Younger Generations

Younger generations in South Korea are increasingly open to tattoos, with many seeing them as a form of self-expression and rebellion against conservative societal norms. This shift in attitude has led to an increase in tattoo shops and artists catering to this demographic.

The Influence of Western Culture on Tattoos in South Korea

Western culture has played a significant role in the growing acceptance of tattoos in South Korea. Many young people are influenced by Western celebrities and trends, leading them to see tattoos as a fashionable and trendy accessory.

The Role of Gender in Tattoo Culture in South Korea

Tattoos have traditionally been seen as a masculine art form in South Korea. However, there is a growing number of women getting tattoos and becoming tattoo artists, challenging these gender stereotypes.

The Future of Tattoos in South Korea

As attitudes towards tattoos continue to evolve, it is likely that we will see more acceptance and mainstreaming of the art form in South Korea. However, challenges will continue to exist, particularly for tattoo artists seeking to operate legally and openly.

The Importance of Understanding Cultural Context

When considering whether or not it is OK to have tattoos in South Korea, it is important to understand the cultural context surrounding the art form. While tattoos may be accepted and celebrated in other parts of the world, they still carry certain stigmas and taboos in South Korean society.


In conclusion, while tattoos are becoming more accepted and mainstream in South Korea, they still face challenges due to societal stigma and legal restrictions. It is important for individuals considering getting tattoos to understand these cultural nuances and make informed decisions about their choices.

Can Korean girls get tattoos?

Even though tattooing is banned in South Korea, some courageous women still get inked for the sake of art. While possessing tattoos is not illegal, the act of tattooing is against the law in South Korea.

Can you show tattoos on TV in Korea?

Although many Kpop idols have tattoos, Korean broadcast laws still prohibit them from being shown on TV, so idols must cover them with clothing or tape. For instance, Block B’s Taeil has numerous tattoos on his arms and neck.

What is the legal tattoo age in South Korea?

The minimum age to get a tattoo in South Korea is 18, but Young lied and said she was 20 to get one. By the time she turned 20, she was in college studying fashion, but her depression prevented her from attending classes so she stopped going.

Do Korean schools allow tattoos?

Similar to Japan, the society in Korea is quite traditional, and schools have strict policies regarding personal appearance. The most important requirements are to have no visible tattoos (if they can be hidden by a long-sleeve shirt, that is acceptable) and to have neatly trimmed facial hair.

How do Koreans view tattoos?

Tattoos were previously seen as a form of disfigurement, punishment or ownership. During the period of Japanese occupation, Korean gangs started using tattoos to distinguish themselves, inspired by the yakuza. This has led to older Koreans finding it hard to dissociate with the negative legal and cultural associations of tattoos.

Are K-pop idols allowed to have tattoos?

In order to comply with South Korea’s strict laws around tattoos, performers must cover any visible body art with clothing or flesh-colored patches. These laws view tattoos as illegal unless they have been administered by a licensed medical professional.

It is also worth noting that tattoos can have practical implications in certain situations. For example, if you plan on visiting a traditional Korean bathhouse, also known as a jjimjilbang, you may be asked to cover up any visible tattoos. This is due to the association of tattoos with gang activity and the desire of the jjimjilbang to maintain a family-friendly atmosphere.

Additionally, it is important to be aware of cultural appropriation when getting tattoos in South Korea. Traditional Korean designs and motifs should be respected and not used simply for aesthetic purposes or without understanding their cultural significance.

It is also important to consider the potential consequences of getting a tattoo in terms of future job prospects or social relationships. While attitudes towards tattoos are changing, there are still many individuals and businesses that view them negatively. It is important to weigh the potential benefits of getting a tattoo against these potential consequences.

Ultimately, the decision to get a tattoo in South Korea is a personal choice that should be made after careful consideration of cultural context, practical implications, and personal values. By understanding the history and current attitudes towards tattoos in South Korea, individuals can make informed decisions about whether or not they are comfortable having tattoos in this cultural context.

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