Tattoo Culture in Korea

Joshua LernihanArtUnderground

Body image and physical appearance being such a big concern in this country, we wanted to find out how those with body paint have found their tattoos being received here in Korea. We interviewed a number of tatted residents – foreign and otherwise – to get their take on tattoo culture in Korea.



How many tattoos do you have?

I currently have seven tattoos with plans on getting more.

Where did you get your tattoos done?

I have been to a few different  shops however a majority of my work has been done by  Greg  Fly from The Tattoo Shop in Long Island, New York.

Do you have any tattoos directly related to Korea ?

Yes, I do. I have a Magpie, the Korean national bird, tattooed on my left rib cage.

Have you had a tattoo done in Korea? Where?
How did the prices and methods compare with other places?

Yes, I have. In October of 2013, I went and got the magpie tattoo. I had it done in Songtan, near Pyeongtaek. For a piece this size it would cost somewhere around $300 in the US and here in Korea it was only 200,000 Won. The methods and set up were the same except  people were smoking cigarettes in the shop. The place was clean and it didn’t get infected, but I still wouldn’t go back for that reason.

I can’t recommend anywhere, but I’d recommend doing your research and going to a reputable place in Seoul. My next tattoo will be done at Tattoo Korea in Seoul, although I’m expecting to pay more like back home prices.

Are your tattoos visible?

Most of my tattoos are pretty big but, they’re not visible because at work I always wear long sleeve shirts.


In general, how do you think Koreans react to your tattoos?

Most young Korean men think they’re awesome. I haven’t gotten any serious reactions from older people just a few strange looks at the jimjilbang and at the beach.

How does your employer react? /Your parents?/ Your friends?

My boss doesn’t care as long I keep them covered and not visible to the students or their parents. My mom hates them and gets very angry whenever I get a new one.  My friends like them I guess. I don’t really care what other people think, if you do then you’re getting a tattoo for the wrong reasons.

In some jimjilbangs, gyms etc., there are often signs up banning tattooed people from entrance.  Have you ever been turned away from somewhere?