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K-tattoos in global spotlight... but S. Korea is world's only country where giving tattoos is illegal Updated: 2021-03-31 13:50:13 KST

From cats to flowers, these images look different from what often pops up into people's minds when they hear the word 'tattoo'.
Artist Banul is a tattooist who knows how to draw creative works using thin lines and vivid colors.

"These unique and artistic designs show why K-tattoos are trending in the global market."

Banul says that before pandemic, half of her clients were foreigners who came all the way to South Korea for a tattoo.

"There are lots of talented tattoo artists in South Korea. So, foreigners come to Korea for a 'tattoo tour.' They get one from here and another from there."

Some people get tattoos on their surgery scars to cover up incision lines with flowers or brighter images.
It's not just art, but a way to cover up one's pain.
But despite Seoul setting global trends, tattoos are actually illegal in South Korea.

"There's a precedent from the Supreme Court in 1992 that says tattoos are a medical procedure. But to make that plausible, all the products used for tattoos should be medical supplies. South Korea is the ONLY country in the world that says tattoos are a medical procedure. And this means that no one in the country can legally give a tattoo."

The Korean Medical Association says that since tattoos involve injecting an ink under the skin, it's partially a medical procedure as there's a risk of infection.
Meanwhile, other countries see it as art work, offering sanitary education and constantly checking if the artists are following hygiene guidelines.
In the U.S., tattoo artists should take online hygiene education every year, and pass a test to earn a certification of hygiene.
Including semi-permanent tattoos like eyebrow tattoos, around 13 million people in South Korea have received some kind of tattoo.
That's about one out of four people in the country.
But, there are problems that come from tattoos being illegal.
First, since artists can't pay taxes, they are not protected by the law.
As some clients know that it's illegal they could threaten the artists for money or even commit sex crimes.
Another problem is that there are no COVID-19 prevention guidelines for tattoo workshops because they're undocumented.
Seoul's tattoo technique is on-point, and is loved by people across the globe.
But, laws and policies are not keeping up with reality.
Jang Tae-hyun, Arirang News.
KOGL : Korea Open Government License
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