Despite tattoos being a millenary tradition around the globe, some countries still consider them taboo and one of them is the very same home of the most renowned tattoo artists. We are talking about South Korea.
Despite the tight regulations for tattoo parlors and the social stigma this art on the skin still has, inked people in South Korea are becoming popular amongst young ones, creating a thriving environment for professionals that specializes in a wide variety of tattoo styles, going to the most traditional ones, to those exploring the Korean ancient coloring techniques and, of course, the colorful and fine line tattoos.
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That is why, we decided to enlist 14 South Korean tattoo artists that you should definitely follow and, if possible, schedule an appointment for your next trip to the Asian country.
But first, are tattoos illegal in South Korea?
The short answer is no, but it has a deeper explanation.
During the Koryŏ Dynasty (935 to 1392), tattoos were a form to mark individuals that once committed a crime. This allowed everyone to know their infractions since they had to be in areas where others could see them.
Later in the 20th century, Korean gangs started imitating Japanese gangs’ tattoo styles. This led to the belief of tattoos were associated with crime and people who violated social norms.
However, in recent years, this idea has changed and it is more common to find young people with tattoos with the sole purpose of decorating their bodies.
Anyone can have a tattoo parlor in South Korea?
No. This has been a topic of discussion within the country, since its regulations consider tattooing as a medical practice, therefore, only certified doctors can operate a tattoo parlor, making it difficult for artists to have a fully legal studio since they have to operate underground.
That is why many artists decide to travel around the world and have residencies for them to tattoo and for international tattoo lovers to get one of their pieces.
South Korean tattoo artists, you must follow
If you are looking for a contrast artist with, and impeccable attention to detail, then he is your guy. He specializes in high contrast, realistic tattoos that have made his studio, Seoul Ink Tattoo, to be rated the best parlor in the South Korean capital.
Her work with fine lines and urban landscapes is out of this world. The attention to detail and the extremely fine lines make her tattoos a true piece of art on skin. Besides landscapes, she has a series of lines all over the body and even abstract portraits.
If you are into delicate and pastel-colored tattoos, then you should check Banul’s work. She specializes in realism and color with fine lines, almost like a worn vintage postcard.
This is one of the most propositive and experimental tattoo artists I have ever seen. She manages to put into the skin the ink as if it were the traces of a paintbrush, giving a whole new dimension to a tattoo.
This tattoo artist technique incorporates traditional Korean colors and designs into his own pieces. There are five cardinal colors of the traditional Korean color spectrum, also known as Obangsaek. These colors include blue, red, yellow, white, and black.
Prepare yourself for the cuter tattoos you have ever seen. This tattoo artist specializes in fine line mini tattoos, some with color or others just the outline. Their work goes from simple but cute stars and moons to cats, rabbits or Disney characters.
Her colorful tattoos are something serious. She has a determined vibrant color palette that makes her pieces outstanding. She can either work on a piece with plants or flowers, to real pieces of art like this reinterpretation of Gustav Klimt.
This tattoo artist mixes traditional style with a more modern approach to it. The result is extraordinary colorful pieces, mostly florals. She also does some high-contrast pieces with great attention to detail.
This artist specializes in mini tattoos with fine lines. Her traces are so perfect and thin, that give the illusion of almost a stamp on the skin.
Tiny tattoos of cute animals or even family portraits are what this tattoo artist does. She uses a lot of light or pastel colors to give a sensation of warmness and cuteness.
A tattoo artist that specializes in lettering is not easy to find, but this goes beyond simple phrases. Their work is characterized by the juxtaposition of words to create a unique style.
If you are looking for colorful and cute tattoos, then Sisi is your girl. She does fine line work with bright colors and cute scenarios.
This artist specializes in ultrarealistic pet portraits, so if you want to have your cat or dog with you all the time, then you should look out for him.
Abstract tattoos are something else, and this artist creates them with a very unique style that gives each one of his pieces a sense of movement and serenity.