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Why do they cover tattoos in Korea?


Tattoos have been a part of human culture for centuries, but in South Korea, they are still considered taboo. In recent years, there has been a growing trend of covering tattoos in public places. This article will explore the reasons behind this practice and its cultural significance.

Tattoos and Social Stigma

South Korea has a long history of associating tattoos with criminal behavior. In the past, tattoos were associated with gangs and prisoners, which created a negative perception of tattoos in society. Although attitudes toward tattoos have changed over the years, many people still view them as something that only criminals or gang members would have.

Cultural Significance of Tattoos

In Korea, there is a strong emphasis on conformity and group identity. Tattoos, on the other hand, are often seen as a form of individual expression. This clash of values creates tension between those who embrace tattoos as a form of self-expression and those who view them as an affront to social norms.

The Influence of K-pop and Western Culture

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in Western culture among young Koreans. K-pop idols and celebrities often display tattoos openly, which has contributed to the changing attitudes toward tattoos. However, despite this shift in perspective, many people still feel that tattoos are not appropriate in certain settings.

Tattooing Laws in Korea

While tattooing is legal in Korea, it is only allowed to be performed by licensed medical professionals. This means that getting a tattoo can be quite expensive and time-consuming. Additionally, many people are hesitant to get tattoos because they fear the social stigma that comes with having one.

Religious Beliefs and Tattoos

Many Koreans are devout Christians or Buddhists who believe that tattooing is immoral or sacrilegious. In Christianity, tattoos are often viewed as a form of self-mutilation, while in Buddhism, they are seen as a defilement of the body.

The Role of Education and Employment

In Korea, education and employment are highly valued. Many companies have strict dress codes that prohibit visible tattoos. This means that people with tattoos may find it difficult to get a job or advance in their careers.

Tattoo Removal and Covering

For those who already have tattoos, covering them up or getting them removed may be the best option. There are many tattoo removal clinics in Korea, but the process can be painful and expensive. Covering up tattoos with clothing or makeup is a more affordable option, but it can be time-consuming and inconvenient.

The Rise of Tattoo Culture

Despite the social stigma surrounding tattoos, there is a growing interest in tattoo culture among young Koreans. Many people are starting to see tattoos as a form of art and self-expression rather than as something associated with criminal behavior.

Changing Attitudes Toward Tattoos

In recent years, there has been a shift in attitudes toward tattoos in Korea. More and more young people are getting tattoos, and some companies are starting to relax their dress code policies to accommodate this trend.

Tattoo Tourism in Korea

Despite the cultural taboo surrounding tattoos, there is a growing industry for tattoo tourism in Korea. Many tourists come to Korea specifically to get tattoos, attracted by the skill and creativity of Korean tattoo artists.

The Future of Tattoos in Korea

As attitudes toward tattoos continue to change, it is likely that we will see more acceptance of tattoos in Korean society. However, it will take time for this shift to occur, and many people will continue to cover up their tattoos until then.


In conclusion, covering tattoos in Korea is a practice rooted in social stigma and cultural values. While attitudes toward tattoos are changing, they are still viewed as inappropriate in certain settings. As the younger generation continues to embrace tattoo culture, we can expect to see more acceptance of tattoos in Korean society.

Why do Korean idols cover their tattoos?

Performers in South Korea must either cover up their tattoos with clothing or flesh-colored patches during their shows. This is probably because tattoos are viewed as illegal in South Korea, unless they are performed by a licensed medical professional.

Do you have to cover your tattoos in Korea?

Although it is illegal for non-medical professionals to perform tattoos in South Korea, it is not against the law to display tattoos in public. Kim emphasized that it is unreasonable to require people to cover their tattoos in multiuse facilities just because others may not like them. According to South Korean law, only medical doctors are authorized to carry out tattooing procedures.

Why are tattoos illegal in South Korea?

Tattoos in South Korea, known as munshin, have historically been viewed in a negative light. This dates back to the Koryo dynasty, which lasted from 918 to 1392 A.D., when individuals were sometimes tattooed against their will as a punishment for crimes or to signify their status as slaves.

Is it OK to show tattoos in South Korea?

In South Korea, only medical professionals who are licensed are allowed to operate tattoo parlors, while those without medical degrees are prohibited from doing so. However, having a tattoo is not illegal, except for in the military, which does not allow them. Individuals who serve in the military are allowed to have tattoos after their service is completed.

Do Korean schools allow tattoos?

Korean society, like Japan, is known for being conservative, with schools having strict rules about personal appearance. The most important of these rules include not having visible tattoos (unless they can be covered with a long-sleeved shirt) and keeping facial hair neatly trimmed.

What do people in Korea think of tattoos?

Historically, tattoos were often seen as a form of disfigurement, punishment or a means of branding individuals as property. During Japanese rule, Korean gang members adopted the style of yakuza tattoos to establish their gang identity. This has led to difficulties for older generations in breaking away from the negative cultural and legal associations with tattoos.

However, it is important to note that the acceptance of tattoos in Korea is not universal. There are still many older Koreans who hold onto traditional values and view tattoos as a negative aspect of society. Additionally, there are some areas in Korea where visible tattoos are still not allowed, such as public swimming pools or saunas.

Furthermore, the government’s regulation of tattooing has also had an impact on the practice. Because tattooing is only allowed to be performed by licensed medical professionals, it can be difficult for artists to legally operate their businesses. This has led to many tattoo artists operating underground or in private studios, which can make it difficult for customers to find reputable artists.

Despite these challenges, the rise of social media has helped to spread awareness and acceptance of tattoos in Korea. Many Korean tattoo artists have gained large followings on platforms like Instagram, showcasing their work and helping to break down the negative stereotypes associated with tattoos.

Overall, the practice of covering tattoos in public places in Korea is a complex issue that reflects the country’s cultural values and social norms. While attitudes toward tattoos are slowly changing, there is still a long way to go before they are fully accepted in Korean society.

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