Self-expression in Seoul is encouraged mostly in terms of fashion, music, and art. Where it is not commonly accepted are with the country's attitudes toward the tattoo culture. Tattoos are still largely viewed as taboo, especially when it comes to the older generation. Getting a tattoo in South Korea is perfectly legal, though. There are even hundreds of talented tattoo artists in Seoul. However, artists that choose to pursue a career in this field do so with a lot at risk.
To become a tattoo artist, artists are required to have a medical license, leaving many tattoo artists to risk their careers and studios if they are caught operating underground. Even with the threat of police, the tattooing culture is alive and well in South Korea. Read along as we share ten tattoo artists you should visit the next time you are in Seoul. It's amazing to know the risks those artists will take to continue creating art.
Youngbinn Sohn is relatively new in the tattooing game, but that would be hard to guess after seeing some of her work. She is a Fine Arts graduate of Korea National University of Arts.
Youngbinn likes to play around with geometric shapes and will incorporate it with her tattoo designs when she can. Her lines are clean and her art style ranges from simple lines to complex designs. Her Instagram page features both her experience in tattooing as well as her own artworks in different mediums.
Zihwa Tattooer, or Ji Hae Park, operates out of the Hongdae area. Her designs are so beautifully delicate with intricate lines and shading. Most of her designs consist of flowers, black line work, and have a very feminine touch. She works under "Le Jardin de Zihwa" collective.
Her Instagram account has over 460k followers. Her great success has led her the opportunity to branch out to open an online store featuring her designs, some of which includes stickers that can be used as temporary tattoos. She has also collaborated with fellow tattooers in the shop to create a separate Instagram account that features their tiny tattoo designs, and you can find that account here.
Tattooist Banul's designs are delicate and very feminine. Her work is very dreamy and uses colorful inks. Designs are filled with light purples, pinks, and baby blues. Much of her work displayed on her Instagram features beautiful floral creations and cute animals.
Banul's work has become so well known that she has successfully partnered up with Etude House to showcase her work in the form of temporary tattoos. So if you're not one hundred percent ready for some permanent ink, Tattooist Banul's temporary tattoos are perfect for those wanting to sample some of her designs.
Sol has become a very popular tattoo artist for his fragile and delicate line work. Also operating out of Hongdae, this artist has also found his niche by creating extremely detailed works of art.
Many of Sol's pieces depict fine art paintings, watercolors, and, most popularly, cute animals. He is talented in both uses of light pastel colors as well as black ink work. If you're looking for an artist that's easy to communicate with, he also speaks both English and Korean!
From pencil on paper to ink on skin, Nadi's tattooing skills are seriously phenomenal. Her style is unique with beautiful line work that appears as though she has taken a paintbrush to the skin. Many of her designs feature elements that look like actual brush strokes and line work typically found in sketchbooks.
Her work stands out among other tattooers featured on this list due to the rough yet beautiful black work style. She also incorporates splashes of color where appropriate by either using bold reds or deep blues. This style of work creates uniquely identifiable pieces, easily allowing people to be able to say that is Nadi's work.
Polyc_SJ is the owner of Robin Egg Studio in Seoul, home to another tattoo artist featured here which we'll get to next. His style utilizes a lot of geometric shapes which she incorporates into her own abstract style and whimsical bold colors.
He reinterprets numerous famous animated characters like Chihiro from Spirited Away or one of the many girls from Sailor Moon to masterpieces such as or The Great Wave of Kanawaga by Hokusai Katsushika. While many tattoo artists in Seoul are popular for light pastel watercolors or strict blackwork, this tattoo artist plays with bright and bold uses of vibrant colors.
Pitta KKM is a tattoo artist also working under the Robin Egg Studio in Seoul. This tattoo artist loves to incorporate traditional Korean colors and designs into his style. There are five cardinal colors of the traditional Korean color spectrum, also known as Obangsaek. These colors include blue, red, yellow, white, and black.
When Pitta KKM is not focused on creating traditional Korean designs, he will integrate Obangsaek into more contemporary themes and designs. His use of these cardinal colors is also brilliantly used in negative spaces of his work.
Woojin Choi is the tattoo artist known as Oozy Tattooer working in Seoul. His work is heavily inspired by popular Japanese animations and mangas. As you scroll through his portfolio, you'll see works inspired by famous artists like Klimt and Van Gogh.
As well as familiar Studio Ghibli characters from Howl's Moving Castle to Princess Mononoke, some of which are depicted with his twist of dark surrealism. His style is mainly done by many fine lines as if etching on paper and with rare uses of color.
This tattoo artist focuses on creating the most adorable tattoos you'll probably ever see. Cute and tiny is Arar's specialty in addition to lettering.
Scrolling through @Tattooist_arar's Instagram feed, you'll see a mix of simple, clean, fine lines and light washes of pastel watercolors. The style is very minimalist and dainty. Many of the designs feature darling characters from Winnie the Pooh, The Little Prince, and My Neighbor Totoro.
With his impeccable attention to detail, it's no wonder that Kiljun's studio, Seoul Ink Tattoo, has been rated the best tattoo studio in Seoul. Kiljun is the owner and founder of Seoul Ink and has traveled internationally to perfect his skills.
After attending numerous tattoo conventions in the United States and winning multiple awards, he was able to return home to share his knowledge with South Korea's tattoo culture. His works are mainly black work and classics that focus on bold contrasts.