171 COMMENTS

Ah yes, the famous tattoos in Korea question: I say famous because we’ve received a lot of emails asking us about how tattoos are received in Korea. So, not really that famous. Not like, Lebron James famous. Just…eatyourkimchi famous, which isn’t really famous at all. Um. Ok this is starting to get awkward.

The question! Yes, let’s answer that: so, there aren’t tons of tattooed Koreans running around, but that’s not to say that there isn’t a tattoo culture in Korea, either. We’ve seen it grow a lot more since we first came to Korea. In fact, there is even a tattoo convention that happens once a year or so, and they’ve had a few famous tattoo artists visit from different parts of the world to show of their skills. Or should I say…skillz. With a “zee”…mad ones…*throws up a hello kitty gang sign*

Anyhoo, although there is a tattoo culture, it’s not huge, so its popularity still remains underground. It seems like the only people we see with tattoos are artists, musicians, and gangsters. Oh and foreigners! If you have a tattoo, some younger people might be like, “cool” but if you’re coming here to work it’s best to cover it up to avoid issues with your boss and/or the parents who find out about it from your students (if you’re a teacher, that is). Even when Simon and I are on TV, some of the producers want Simon to keep his tattoo covered so the audience watching isn’t turned off by it. Simon usually says, “okay” and then wears a t-shirt anyways…teehee! We’d really like to change the image of “tattoos = bad people” to something more like “tattoos can also equal happy drug-free married couples!” I heard Germany is awesome for this kindof attitude change. Is it true? Anyone?

Also, tattoo artists have no way to be officially certified in Korea (at least not yet) since we heard that the only people who can legally give tattoos are doctors. Needless to say, there aren’t many doctors who went through years of medical school in order to open up a tattoo parlour. Doubt their parents would be happy with that. However, we’re really not sure if this has changed lately, so if anyone is in the tattoo field in Korea, we’d love to hear an update on what’s happening regarding tattoo laws. Supposedly there are ways around this: you can get certificates in dermatology, I think. We spoke with a tattoo guy at a bar in Korea who was saying something along these lines, but he was very drunk at the time. Not sure if we should believe him or not…

All we know is that there are tattoo parlours you can go to, but it seems like 90% of them are kindof hidden (as in, they aren’t advertising with neon “TATTOO INSIDE” signs). In our case, we needed to have a contact to find the location and meet the tattoo artists. For our parlour, it had a great reputation with Korean and Korean-American artists, and although it looked like a typical Korean apartment from the outside, once we got inside it looked like an office. It had all the sterilization machines, clean leather chairs, tattoo covered workers, and the typical smell of disinfectant that is ubiquitous in every tattoo parlour. If you’re planning on getting a tattoo done in Korea, make sure you go somewhere clean and ask to see the sterilization machines and make sure you can see that they’re using new unopened needles. A good parlour won’t be insulted by these questions, but if they seem hesitant or try to convince you verbally that they do that, don’t stick around and give them your money.

We’ve only seen very few places that overtly advertise themselves as tattoo parlous, and from what we’ve heard from our Korean friends, tattoo parlours can get raided by the police, who will then slap a heavy fine on the shop and sometimes force them to close down. Outside of the shops, we’ve heard about a lot of travelling tattoo artists that you can call who will come directly to your house, or you can go directly to theirs, since they don’t own a physical shop. You know, it’s odd: it’s like, we see tattoos on people occasionally, and even Kpop Idols have tattoos. Don’t people ask them how they got the tats? Will they say they got them in Korea? I’m not sure.

Things surely must have changed since we got ours done here a couple of years ago, so our info might be a bit out of date. We’re definitely thinking of getting more tattoos, so we’ll be able to update you more on it when we get those done, if we get them done in Korea!

ToFebruary
  1. Kita Edwards

    ahh whut im so confused,but Jonghyun has so many awesome (hot) tattoos how whut ahhhh >….<

  2. You guys really helped me open my eyes to tattoos and people who wear them. I know I will never get one because I don’t like anything on my skin. But by simply watching your videos I’ve grown to understand that people with tattoos are normal people just expressing themselves. So I wanted to thank you sincerely for what you are doing. You’ve made me realize how judgmental I was in the past in relation to tattoos.

  3. Here’s a fascinating article by Margaret Cho about her experience being Korean and having tattoos.

    http://jezebel.com/5992256/in-a-room-full-of-naked-koreans-margaret-chos-body-is-an-unwelcome-sight

  4. NgocTranLe
    NgocTranLe

    GD and Taeyang go to 302 Studio. That’s probably a legal place though because they have posted many pictures of Taeyang and especially GD, openly advertising their studio. ?_? So………idk.

  5. What about holes in your ears? I had plugs in my ears years ago and their are sizable holes still there. I could fit a double zero gauge in one ear and a a zero in the other.

    Do I need to close them up if I expect to teach in Korea?

  6. yep, it’s quite accepted in germany to have tattoos, especially the younger generation. people don’t really care but still, in the work field it’s the same, it depends on the boss if you get hired with visible tattoos/piercings.

  7. Here at the the ville outside USAG Humphreys ( near Pyongtaek) there is like 4 openly known tattoo shops.. ive gotten2 done by korean artists out of my 3 tatoos ( one was done back in the states) we’re leaving soon and if it wasnt for saving money for the move… i would so go get another from them… the artists and everyone ive met in the shops here are uber friendly and welcoming.. staff and customers as well! ive had many local koreans ask me and look at it and actually fawn over the art work ( i have one on my forearm done here.. one around my collar bone… and the one from the states its on my wrist… needless to say 2 of them are almost always publiclly viewable and sense there is nothing inapproprate on them ( one is “Angel” with wings and the other is a lily with stars and lines and my daughters name and bday… each one for my girls) i think it really depends on where your going… cuz the areas around the US posts seem to be very accepting!

  8. I’ve been planning tattooing most of my body for few years now. And I do mean arm & leg sleeve (1 of each) plus full back, maybe ribs/sides… “go big or go home” attitude. Hiding them, especially during summer, would be troublesome, but do you think I would be totally shunned upon? I wouldn’t mind stares, but I wouldn’t enjoy being an outcast either.

    How about places that normally ban tattoos, like bath houses or saunas, are they more lenient on foreigners? Would a sleeve or big piece on back still be a no-no?

  9. Enjoyed watching the video. English teacher in my school has the same problem actually… in the first day of our class she openly talked about it with us students and asked if we mind her showing tattoos during class. we were completely fine about it so now she just wears whatever she wants during class. But, on important days like when the principal and our parents visit our school, she wears formal and less revealing clothes obviously…

  10. umm .. how do u dye spudgy hair green or blue and what colour will be next

  11. Well my TL;DR question would probably be for martina. I don’t know if this was covered but how do you or do you have trouble finding undergarnments namely bras in Korea. from what i’ve seen the bras only go up to a certain size and just about all of them are padded in korea and when your naturally padded thats a nono

  12. DAMN YOU TROOOOLLS!! you got me there…actually, here in the Netherlands either..teachers don’t really show tattoos..I’ve actually never seen a teacher exposing their tattoo in school, I only heard about some of them during beach trips or camping trips. I guess it just has to do with the formal, neutral dress code.

  13. talk about babies, battery dying. yup. that alwys happens. :D

  14. There are saunas and baths in Korea that say no one with tattoos is allowed, as well.

    DON’T show the kids your tattoos! Don’t bring it up in your lessons.

    Yeah, there is a tatt culture here in Daegu…but don’t bring it into the school.

  15. You guys do Music Mondays and you speak out your own opinions about the music videos and songs. And when you see the comments, like those hate comments because they dont agree with you, do you feel hurt or just ignore it? And when you first did Music Mondays and your other vids what was the response? Was it good or bad?

  16. So I know a like 40 yr old woman with tatoos on her face… she wouldnt go down well in Korea Im guessing?? :)

  17. hanimadu98

    can i know where is the best korean online shopping?

  18. TL;DR What is Korea’s definition for fat, skinny and average and how do koreans react to people of certain weights?

  19. Aha, first of all I am a BIG fan of your page and videos! ^_^ And you always make me feel all warm and fuzzy~ Now from that, I would really like to ask you, did you ever have any time in your life when you had the lowest self-esteem ever? For me, it’s really bad where even if I mess up once during tennis practice, I will get red in the face and for the rest of the day I will not play well. And it’s not just this may it be looks or grades or anything else. If you can, do you have any way to boost self-esteem?

  20. nice! you should have also mentioned that it is prohibited to show tattoos on television. it’s ok on cable channels, but it’s strictly censored on major channels like KBS, SBS, MBC and such.

  21. I’m not asking for this question to be on TL;DR (since the answer would be too short) but could u pleeeeaaaase tell us what city Simon is from in poland?
    Aaand if you’re worried about stalkers then just name the area :P

  22. if you could show someone who knew nothing about korea 1 music video which music video would it be and why? Then if you had an hour what other things would you show them to help them understand your love for korea?

  23. So, I won a scholarship from my college to go study abroad in South Korea for a whole year and they said I was allowed to bring my dog since I will be provided with my own apartment. I wanted to know if you anyone knew how it works to bring my dog. Does my dog need a visa or a vet’s permission form (when I went to Bermuda I needed this to bring my dog) or do I just bring her with me?

  24. Demongodloki

    Mmmm. I still get smacked for having tattoos whenever I go back to Korea to visit family members… I get smacked more by passer bys, about the same amount I get for smoking there. Then again I’m Korean so they are a bit stricter towards our own people. Trust me running from an ajuma that you don’t know telling you to stop smoking with her purse as a blunt object was an experience that many of you that aren’t Korean will never have to deal with.

  25. lol
    Russia!!!
    XDD
    Hello from Russia

  26. There was an episode of a TV program called ‘Martian Virus’ where they featured two girls with sooooo many tattoos, like cover there backs completely. When they head out to the beach to check out the reactions of the people, most of them were dumbstruck.
    I guess that shows consensus about tattoos in Korea very well. There are some people who are okay with it, and majority who are yet to accept it.

  27. I think it’s kinda good that Korea is like that about tattoos. I have nothing against them, but i heard they can cause health problems and are bad for the skin. Anyways, this is completely different from the U.S where practically every adult has a tattoo!!! And Simon and Martina you TROLLS i wanted to know about the baby!!! :P

  28. Have u seen a korean wearing a bikini at waterparks or at the beach? :)

  29. I’m glad you guys answered this question. :) I’m getting a couple tattoos next spring, and knowing that Korean tattoo culture isn’t too harsh is reassuring.

  30. So I was wondering, are there other job market like in Korea for foreigners? You know besides teaching English?

  31. RagdollCoty

    I applied to teach English in Korea directly through EPIK and was turned down because I have a large tattoo on my thigh (which no one will ever see unless I wear a swimsuit, not going to happen), and that I am overweight. The essay and application was a long a tedious process that left me very upset with the system and judgmental process as a whole. Which is sad because I have been studying Korean with private tutors for almost two years now and quite fluent in reading, writing, and speaking. It seems like EPIK is really missing out on a good teacher due to their bias against tattoos. It is required on the EPIK application that you disclose your tattoos, what they are, the size of them, and what they represent— then they must match your application during your physical exam once you arrive in Korea or you will be told to leave at your own expense.

    I should have used a recruiter!

  32. you mentioned a few times Boys Before Flowers and other k-dramas, but what about other type of movies? Like horror movies. Have you seen any? What’s the average grade u’d give them? (I watched The Cat with Park Min Young hoping it would be great since she’s in it, but I was kinda disappointed…)

  33. Lorena Abrodos

    Hello Simon and Martina! Talking about tatoos, I have my new brand black dragon tatoo on my back, and I show it to my korean friend and then she says: “Oh in Korea dragon tatoos on the back and related to mafia” ajajajaja I guess I’ll never get a job in Korea now jajajaajj

  34. greenring01

    TL;DR: When´╗┐ corporal punishment in schools was still legal in Korea, how did you feel about it and while teaching did you ever have to conduct phyiscal punishment?

  35. What did you do to be a teacher in Korea? and did they pay you good?

  36. It is the same in the U.S especially if your job is professional or to be near children because they want them to have the image of someone respectable and responsible, and such ( not meaning that people that have tattoos aren’t! My college professor has a tattoo and has a Ph.D) Anyways people are accepting this a little slower that it should!

  37. Sara Eden

    Hello there! For Simon and Martina or for anyone interested – here is my experience of getting/having tattoos in Korea:

    I have two tattoos. One on my ankle and one on the back of my neck. I try to keep them covered for the most part; however, I am positive that most, if not all, of my elementary age kids have seen both of them. If I wear a dress or skirt my ankle is exposed and if I put my hair into a ponytail you can see the one on my neck. I was anxious about it at first but nowadays I don’t really care. When the students first saw them they were like, “OOooooo” but then they also stopped caring. My co-teachers don’t care and have never said ANYTHING to me about them except that the one of my ankle is “pretty”. So there you have it, no big deal. I live in Daegu, which is one of the most conservative cities but my school is fairly relaxed. At most highschools, I don’t think this would be acceptable and they would probably expect me to keep them covered. In the city in general, there seems to be no reaction whatsoever. This could be because mine are pretty small or it could be because I am entirely non-threatening to look at, I’m not sure. Same a Martina, I’ve never had a problem at a bath house or anywhere else and no one stops my on the street to gawk at them.

    Also, here in Daegu, there is a tattoo/piercing popular that is very public. It is just chillin’ on the street like any ol’ tattoo shop and it’s well advertised. It is owned by a foreigner I beleive so I don’t know if that makes a difference. It’s a fairly busy and popular part of downtown Daegu and it’s across the street from a major arcade/indoor rollercoaster thing. It’s the only one I’ve personally seen in Daegu but I just wanted to mention it because it’s definitely out in the open with no secret Russian passwords. And there is all my tattoo knowledge.

  38. cuttinggem

    i have a TL:DR question.. okay so are there any nursery ryhmes in korea? or like i was young i would play like hand games with fellow classmates or siblings like idk if you have ever heard of it but SLIDE? (slide slide slippery slide 1, 1, slap hand together? 2,2 again, etc.) or SWING SWING SWING on a hot summer day hey hey! or um stuff like that do you guys know any? or like LONDON BRIDGE that game like that (man i hope i’m explaining this all right)

  39. Hey I sort of got 2 questions, but first I’d like to say I LOVE your videos, they’re very informative. Q1) If I wanted to live or visit Korea what are somethings I should definitely study up on before going? Q2) Since I’m bad with learning new languages, can you offer advice into learning Korean? (Whulut, w is silent).

  40. DoomsCookie

    i’m from germany, so i felt i’d be rude to not tell you what its like here ;DDD
    naw, but back to topic… tattoos are really really common, if u can say so… i mean, out of my 22 coworkers, 19 are tattoo…ed…(?). nd i know a lot of more people…
    its really not any special. of course, most of those tattoo are like unreadable pseudo.chinese signs, or a wide range of stars, sculls, butterflies & names of loved ones. so there’s actually not a lot to care about, right? :D
    in fact, there are some jobs where they dont want you to be like full covered from head to toe, especially in expensive shops, nd hotels, but normally, if you can cover it for the time working, nobody minds tattoos. and there is nobody that takes such hard charges against tattooed people.. or the artists.
    so this is what i know & have experienced. dont know if others think different, but i believe one can say that germany is really quite open about the whole issue. lucky us, huh?

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