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Is it OK to show tattoos in Korea?

Is it OK to show tattoos in Korea?


Tattoos have become increasingly popular in recent years, and many people consider them a form of self-expression. However, in some cultures, tattoos are still stigmatized and associated with criminal activity. In Korea, tattoos have a complicated history and are still viewed with some suspicion. In this article, we will explore the question of whether it is OK to show tattoos in Korea.

The history of tattoos in Korea:

Tattooing has a long history in Korea, dating back to at least the Three Kingdoms period. However, during the Joseon Dynasty, tattoos were associated with criminal activity and were used as a form of punishment. This negative association continued into the 20th century, when tattoos were often seen as symbols of gang membership or rebellion against authority.

The changing attitudes towards tattoos:

In recent years, attitudes towards tattoos in Korea have begun to shift. Younger generations are more accepting of tattoos and view them as a form of personal expression rather than a sign of criminal activity. However, there is still some stigma attached to tattoos, particularly among older generations.

The legal status of tattoos in Korea:

Technically, there is no law against getting a tattoo in Korea. However, tattooing is only legal if the tattoo artist is a licensed medical professional. This means that most tattoo artists operate illegally and can face fines or imprisonment if caught.

The societal implications of showing tattoos:

While there is no legal prohibition against showing tattoos in Korea, there are still societal implications to consider. Depending on the context, showing your tattoos could be seen as inappropriate or disrespectful. For example, if you are attending a job interview or meeting with someone in a position of authority, it may be best to cover up your tattoos.

The role of religion in attitudes towards tattoos:

Religion also plays a role in attitudes towards tattoos in Korea. Many Christians view tattoos as sinful or disrespectful to the body, while Buddhists may view tattoos as a form of spiritual practice. It’s important to be aware of the religious beliefs of those around you and respect their views on tattoos.

The impact of K-pop and celebrity culture:

K-pop and celebrity culture have had a significant impact on attitudes towards tattoos in Korea. Many popular idols and celebrities have visible tattoos, which has helped to normalize the practice among younger generations. However, it’s worth noting that these celebrities often face criticism and backlash from more conservative segments of society.

The importance of context:

As with most cultural practices, the acceptability of showing tattoos in Korea depends largely on the context. In more casual settings, such as at a music festival or among friends, showing your tattoos is unlikely to cause any problems. However, in more formal or conservative settings, it may be best to cover up your tattoos.

The impact of globalization:

Globalization has also had an impact on attitudes towards tattoos in Korea. As more foreigners visit or move to Korea, they bring with them their own cultural norms and practices. This has helped to broaden the acceptance of tattoos in Korean society.

The role of gender:

Gender also plays a role in attitudes towards tattoos in Korea. While both men and women get tattoos, there is still some stigma attached to women with visible tattoos. Women with tattoos may face discrimination in the workplace or in other social settings.

The future of tattoos in Korea:

It’s difficult to predict what the future holds for tattoos in Korea. As younger generations become more accepting of tattoos, it’s possible that the stigma will continue to diminish. However, it’s also possible that tattoos will remain a controversial topic in Korean society.


In conclusion, the question of whether it is OK to show tattoos in Korea depends largely on the context and the attitudes of those around you. While tattoos are becoming more accepted among younger generations, there is still some stigma attached to them, particularly among older generations. It’s important to be aware of the societal implications of showing your tattoos and to respect the cultural norms of those around you.

Can I show my tattoos in Korea?

The act of having a tattoo is not against the law in South Korea and many young people have them. However, getting a tattoo is illegal because it is considered a medical procedure under Korean law and can only be performed by a licensed medical practitioner.

Why do Korean shows blur out tattoos?

On South Korean television, tattoos are often blurred out because they are associated with violent and socially unacceptable behavior, particularly seen among gangs. This censorship is similar to the way other countries censor violent content.

Is it frowned upon to have tattoos in Korea?

Despite being a developed country, South Korea still considers tattoos a significant societal taboo. The act of tattooing is illegal unless someone is a licensed medical doctor. This sets South Korea apart as the only developed country with such strict laws regarding tattoos.

How do Koreans view tattoos?

Historically, tattoos were seen as a form of mutilation, punishment, or ownership. During Japanese occupation, Korean gangs began using tattoos as a way to identify themselves, drawing inspiration from yakuza aesthetics. For older Koreans, it can be challenging to separate these cultural and legal associations from tattoos.

Are kpop idols allowed to show tattoos?

Korean performers are required to conceal any visible tattoos during their performances using clothing or flesh-colored patches. This rule is likely due to South Korea’s strict stance on tattoos, which are generally considered illegal unless performed by a medical professional.

Why are BTS not allowed to show tattoos?

The primary cause for this issue is the traditional and conservative culture of South Korea, where tattoos are considered taboo. Additionally, some fans may struggle to accept the fact that JK made a decision for himself and took actions accordingly.

Additionally, it’s important to note that the size and placement of tattoos can also impact their acceptability in Korean society. Tattoos that are large or prominently displayed, such as on the neck or face, may be seen as more provocative or attention-grabbing, and therefore may be viewed more negatively.

It’s also worth mentioning that the trend of getting couple tattoos, where two people get matching designs to symbolize their relationship, has become increasingly popular in Korea. While still somewhat controversial, this trend has helped to further normalize tattoos among younger generations.

Furthermore, the rise of social media has allowed for greater visibility and acceptance of tattoos in Korean society. Many people share photos of their tattoos on platforms like Instagram, allowing others to see and appreciate the artistic value of tattooing.

It’s clear that attitudes towards tattoos in Korea are evolving, but there is still a long way to go before they are fully accepted. As with any cultural practice, it’s important to educate oneself on the history and context surrounding tattoos in Korea and to show respect for the beliefs and opinions of others.

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