Getting Tattooed in Korea

I feel like I’ve done a lot of posts about Korea as of late.  Or maybe it was my in depth conversation about Korean and Japanese convenience stores on Thanksgiving?

Anyway, if you didn’t know already, I got three tattoos done in South Korea.  I got one from one tattoo artist, and two from another.  I had done a ton of research leading up to the first tattoo, and if you’re planning on doing the same I would recommend reading on.

Tattoos are illegal in South Korea.  There is currently not a way for tattoo artists to be legally certified as they can in the United States.  Technically this means that only doctors are legally allowed to give tattoos.  But there aren’t exactly a large amount of doctors giving up their practices to become tattoo artists.

Just because they are illegal doesn’t mean you won’t find Koreans with tattoos. There is a negative stigma even today against people with tattoos.  Especially with the older generation of Koreans, tattoos are still seen as something gangsters and evil people have.  I was asked on a few occasions why I would ruin my beautiful body with tattoos.  So be prepared to get some angry stares and rude whispers if you have visible tattoos.  Younger people in opposition will like you and think you’re cool, so at least there’s that.

When choosing a shop, go based on reputation.  You aren’t easily able to find shops like you can in the States because they don’t advertise themselves.  It is rumored that police will raid tattoo shops and slap them with a hefty fine.  Both shops I went to were tucked away and I never would have known they were there if I hadn’t had specific directions.  I chose my first shop because the YouTubers Simon and Martina of Eat Your Kimchi went there.  The second shop I went to was based on a friends recommendation who had gotten tattooed there earlier that year.


Both shops were clean, had sterile equipment, solid reputations, and talented artists.  I stalked their Facebook pages, Instagram profiles, and websites.  I took my time with the first tattoo because it was only my second tattoo at that point.  I hadn’t been tattooed in about two years so I was extra nervous because the design I wanted was far more intricate than the lettering I have as my first tattoo.  So even after reviewing the shop online, it was when I went in for the consultation that I fully committed to my plan.

If you have gotten a tattoo before, you know that afterwards they wrap your newly finished ink with a material that helps absorb blood and ink.  At the shops I went to I was instead wrapped with saran wrap.  This is the worst thing for a fresh tattoo, so make sure to remove it as soon as you can.  If you know you’re getting a tattoo you can bring your own bandage to be sure you get a high quality end for you new tattoo.


My tattoos are all about three years old and they’ve healed super well.  So what should you do when getting tattooed in Korea?

  1.  Find a reputable shop
  2.  Find a talented artist
  3.  Ask about sterilization and cleanliness at your consultation
  4.  Determine appropriate tattoo aftercare
  5.  Enjoy your new ink!

If you would like to know the KakaoTalk ID of either of my artists, feel free to ask in the comments down below or message me on my Facebook page.  I don’t feel right simply posting them on my blog for everyone to see.  Otherwise this Bustle article has a few artists you can investigate.


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