At Books and Bao, we both love tattoos and are fierce tattoo collectors. And while that has caused some problems while traveling (mainly in the onsen in Japan) there’s nothing we love more than scoping out a talented artist on our travels. Here are some of our favourite studios and tattoo artists in South Korea. Scroll to the bottom for tips about getting a tattoo in South Korea.
History of Tattoos in Korea
Korea has had a turbulent history with its tattoo culture, similar to the views amongst the older generation in the West, tattoos have been associated with crime and general ‘untrustworthy sorts’. Visiting performers in Korea have had to, in the past, cover up tattoos while on stage to avoid offending anyone.
While having tattoos in Korea isn’t illegal, there’s still the issue of the law stating that actually getting a tattoo is illegal if not performed by a licensed medical practitioner (currently the same in Japan). Obviously, this makes it very difficult for talented artists to become licensed.
The history of tattoos in Korea actually goes back to the 4th century when fishermen would get tattoos to ward off evil spirits but during the 19th century, things took a more negative turn when criminals were branded with tattoos. Later, in the 20th century, they became associated with organised crime.
Additionally, there’s the issue that it goes against traditional Confucian values, which is similar to the religious argument in other countries, that you shouldn’t change the body your parents (or God) gave you.
Thankfully, tattoos are very quickly becoming de-stigmatized in Korea (compared to neighboring countries) and it’s not unusual to see young people on the subway with tattoos. Having tattoos ourselves has led to many conversations with curious locals that we just wouldn’t have had otherwise.
10 Incredible Tattoo Artists in South Korea
Huge is one of my favourite artists, he produces adorable block black and white Asian/anime-inspired tattoos. If you’re looking for a cute kitty in a ramen bowl or a Kaonashi (No Face) in a box, this is your guy. He occasionally sells stickers and t-shirts of some of his most iconic designs. Definitely one of our favourite and one of the most iconic tattoo artists in South Korea.
Pitta uses gorgeous traditional colours from Korean paintings (the gold is stunning) to create scenes from Korean, Korean inspired art, bold animals, or anime themes tattoos. He often works in block shapes so his tattoos are instantly recognisable. Pitta is one of the best tattoo artists in South Korea if you want a traditional design in a modern style.
Another tattoo artist in South Korea whose colours blow me away. From beautiful florals, birds, fans, and talismans. I could look at this Instagram account all day, if you’re looking for natural beauty then this is the artist for you.
For bold colours, a traditional style, and full body work then Shiryu tattoo is one of the best tattoo artists in South Korea for giving you that edge.
Read More: The Best Tattoo Artists in Bangkok
Hongdam creates fine-lined and whimsical watercolor tattoos and have made a huge name for themselves on the tattoo scene. If you've been looking for a floral design or some script then this is a great choice. I'm a big fan of their tiger designs too. One of our favourite tattoo studios in South Korea.
Delicate fine art, watercolour tattoos. They create highly detailed pictures in the smallest of sizes, we're consistently mind-blown by the quality from Sol Tattoo.
Nana specialises in the ever-growing in popularity neo-traditional designs, beautiful bold colours and thick black lines abound. For a striking tattoo in South Korea, this could be the one for you.
This is one for delicate, small tattoos that make a statement. Thin lines, high detail, and watercolours make Tattooist Banal's style so distinctive.
Based in Busan, this Korean studio specialises in traditional Japanese designs and sleeves. Beautiful dragons, waves, and cranes are their signature styles and they do it so well.
Ridiculously cute, small heart and cartoon based tattoos with bold lines. Totally unique and fun to look at, we absolutely love Woo too!
Have fun getting a tattoo in South Korea, some of the very best artists to date are based there so don't miss out.
Getting a Tattoo in Korea
If you're considering getting a tattoo in Korea I wouldn't hesitate. The standards are equal to what you'd expect and with some of the most incredible tattoo artists in South Korea are below for you to choose from. You're bound to come out with something special.
Most Korean tattoo artists have an Instagram page so if these aren't your thing, that's the best way to find someone who is. Find the best way to message them and fire over your ideas or visit the store and have a chat.
Most of these tattoo artists are based in Seoul but many of them do guest posts at tattoo conventions and studios around the world. If you need help with booking or want to find more artists, this Facebook page is a huge help.
If you like this then you might like: South Korean Films That Aren't Oldboy, Books to Read Before Visiting Korea or find out Where to Stay in Seoul. For foodies, take a culinary trip around South Korea with us.
If you're interested in learning how to create your own incredible tattoo designs, you can take this class - along with thousands of other classes - with Skillshare, along with a 30-day free trial for 30,000+ Skillshare classes.