Exploring Korea’s Illegal Tattooing Scene

Exploring Korea’s Illegal Tattooing Scene


I’m grace neutral a tattoo artist and activist I don’t know if they’re more freaked out by my tattoos on the fact that I’m wearing a barber and coat in a spa I’m interested in ideas of alternative beauty and pushing our boundaries of positive body image you can never wear makeup again how do you I will die to me the human body is a beautiful thing in all its forms what Gracie could have looked like if she didn’t off I’ve traveled to South Korea to explore their alternative beauty industry I wanted to know why tattooing is illegal here and meet the young Koreans embracing alternative ideas of beauty and body image the government estimate there are more than 20,000 tattooists working in illegal tattoo studios I’m on my way to meet South Korean artist at Pro Lee at his illegal tattoo studio I followed his career now for a few years and he’s been telling me all about his underground shop and how secretive he has to be period I’ve never been somewhere before where the art form that I practice on a daily basis is actually illegal so it’s gonna be really interesting to find out more about the whole scene here tell me about your studio how long we had this place just about two years now as you know we don’t really have tattoo culture or tattoo history ten years ago I couldn’t buy any tattoo stuff I didn’t know how to buy where to buy in Korea it’s illegal to tattoo without doctor license but who’s it going to be a tattooer man they have a doctor license yeah it totally occurs ridiculous right the government over here is dismissing this whole creative part of the process and that’s kind of insulting my artwork my trade by saying that you can’t do it but a doctor can what generally is the attitude towards you from the public yo or Andina light mocha die – in Bundoran tattoo han saram for madhava 10 saravanan meenatchi anymore Taron term Drupal melon King Johnny and June Cicero magic to public pool is haram de depandi she nah Haji Ali Quran so I don’t really use any public transport here I use only taxi over my car you have a really beautiful collection of tattoos on your body but one of my favorites is the noose around your neck tattoo East is not a job in South Korea and I’m doing it illegal so I’m a criminal here right so this is the meaning I love it so much at Pearl thank you yeah I’ve got my little magpie from at 400 want a little time high right now feel so good leaving at for a studio I couldn’t imagine being forced underground or censored for my beauty choices it feels like mainstream culture makes young people feel uncomfortable if the beauty ideals they express don’t fit in with the traditional standards of beauty operas have this amazing idea that we’re going to go to this little photo shop people get their photos taken for passports job applications but the one thing that they do here is they actually edit your face so we’re gonna go into one now and see if they can make the buzzer laughter look like normal upstanding citizens I just had my photo taken just like you would when you’re at a school you know for the yearbook picture and he’s photoshopping it and making me look normal taking away all my tattoos on my scars gonna change my eyes back to normal as I was ill I walk whilst we were there an older customer arrived who had some strong opinions to share about my look you know what all you bougie Joanna whore I’m grounded usually not Mahad year great challenge uncle Dhiru he some jump you particular what okay be myself as Eliza hey can i Mose ambulant old I thought you were cousins when you hear a movement adore what a you do their image they’re gonna play a bra losers do general you come on like yeah I love it it’s so weird it’s really hard for me to look at my face what’s wrong uh what yes since Wednesday and it’s so bizarre what Gracie could have looked like if she didn’t her face being confronted with South Korea’s feminine beauty ideals gave me some insight into the pressure young people here under to conform I asked a pro if there was anywhere that young people like him felt comfortable being themselves he suggested a cop called mystic so we made our way across the city this is the other side of Seoul it felt amazing to see people with radically different looks so you use your kpop style people were enjoying themselves in their own skin you’re covered in tattoos right oh yeah what did your parents make when you what to do they hate me hey you’re my soul you’re not my son you’re not my son I’ll do that why’d you do that like that yeah that’s why I’m so sad they said to so so your mother was she really upset yeah and they’re crying she’s crying oh our what about your dad dad he never spoke to me five years dad hasn’t spoken to yeah just because of tattoos tattoo in my hair over here you don’t like me yeah that’s right mystic was full of young people with their own ideas of style and beauty and it opened my eyes to the underground tattoo scene in Seoul these people embody youth rebellion and tattooing is a big symbol of that they represent the subculture the new generation flying the flag for alternative beauty by forming a scene and a community where they can be themselves despite Korean society’s rejection of alternative beauty it’s a club called mystic in Seoul I met a girl called solji i was immediately transfixed by her she’s covered in tattoos i wanted to find out more

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