From memorial tattoos to tattoos based around your favorite lyrics,
here's what it's all about!
K-Pop is a form of entertainment that is loved around the world from North America to Eastern Asia. The amount of influence K-Pop currently has on society is immense. From raising awareness of self-love to respecting one's self and others to bringing cultures and generations together, one of these many forms of influence is in the tattoo industry.
While it's not illegal to have tattoos, it is as of now illegal in South Korea to be a tattoo artist. Historically this began in Samhan, a collective of confederacies including Mahan, Jinhan, and Byeonhan and continued on into the Goryeo Period until the Joseon Dynasty. It was said that the tattoos linked the wearer to criminal activity as well as to violence, gangsters or juvenile delinquents. In 1970, tattoos became in issue, due to how the tattooing took place, if the utensils were clean as well as the impacts of infection could potentially cause the individual.
By law, only licensed medical doctors can practice the art of penetrating one's skin with a needle. South Korean tattooists are calling for regulation and legalization of the industry, but unfortunately nothing has yet changed. Even so, individuals in South Korea who wish to seek this form of expression are vast and growing. Many South Koreans have now started to embrace tattoos as a work of art or form of expression. Many think of munsin (문신), the Korean word for tattoo.
Munsin is a term used that helps people compare tattoos with fashion or else works of art. It gives the opportunity for education as well as acceptance. With that said, seeking a tattoo artist in Korea isn't as easy as it is in North America. There you can drive by or walk down certain parts of your city and see many tattoo shops with their lights glowing 'Open'. In Korea there are a few steps you need to take to find an artist and where they are located underground. Tattoo artists open their shops and give the wearer that opportunity, and individuals can receive permanent or opt for semi-permanent tattoos if they so choose.
In North America and other parts of Europe fans of the Korean-Pop phenomenon have taken to tattoos to express their love for their idols or group. Fans of SM boy group SHINee have taken it a step further and inked tattoos in memory of the late member Jonghyun who passed away recently.
Others have chosen a lyric or quote from their favorite song or an image from their favorite album. Each tattoo is meaningful on its own and has a personal attachment between the wearer and the ink itself.
That's not to say it isn't hard on those who choose to show their love on their sleeve. From odd glances to bombarding messages on the internet, those with tattoos also have a hard time when it comes to the opinion of others. That, however hasn't stopped fans from sharing their love with the rest of the world. Regardless, fans are not the only ones getting tattoos in appreciation. There are many K-Pop Idols within the industry who also have tattoos from the likes of Big Bang's leader G-Dragon to female soloist HyunA.
Tattoos and K-Pop are forms of expression, both of which will continue to grow and expand as generations progress and the world changes. K-Pop brings people together as does K-Pop influenced tattoos. No matter where you are from and what your stance on tattoos are, you can always appreciate the beauty of the work behind the designs and how much it means to someone!
"Our bodies were printed as blank pages to be filled with the ink of our hearts."
- Michael Biondi "Conversations with the Elephant"