Beauty and Tattoos in South Korea

In case you don’t know, tattoos are effectively illegal in South Korea.  Specifically, it’s illegal to give people tattoos without having a medical license or to do business with with illegal tattoo artists.  People can still get tattoos without violating the law, but they’d have to get tattooed by a doctor.  That begs the question:  What kind of doctor says that they’d rather spend their time giving people tattoos than operating on patients?

Tattoos are frowned upon in every society, but the percent of those who reject the notion and the extent of harassment by those judging people with tattoos changes throughout time and between countries.  The vast majority of South Koreans don’t approve of tattoos and speak ill of those with tattoos.  Younger South Koreans are more likely to be accepting of tattoos, and are willing to go through systematic oppression to paint their bodies as they please.

In both Japan and Korea, saunas (jimjilbang [찜질방/사우나] and onsen [温泉]) almost always refuse people with even the tiniest of tattoos.  Fears of gangs or scaring children and the elderly are the reasons supplied.  These may not be the same as your own culture, but if you’re reading this, your own country likely went through a similar phase of hatred towards tattoos and those with them, which likely still persists.  (Ever felt uncomfortable around someone with tattoos or heard of someone having to always wear long sleeves in order to be able to work?)

i-D has a series of videos, starring Grace Neutral, about how beauty is viewed in South Korea, with tattoos being a major focus.  I’ll be updating this post with each one as they go along.  At the bottom of the page, you can see a couple videos by Eat Your Kimchi and Hallyu Back about tattoos in Korea.

i-DInside Korea’s Billion Dollar Beauty Industry

i-DExploring Korea’s Illegal Tattooing Scene

i-DSouth Korean Woman Reveals Illegal Tattoos to Parents


Eat Your KimchiTL:DR Having Tattoos in Korea

Hallyu BackLike It! What It’s Like Having LOTS of Tattoos in Korea?

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