Getting a tattoo in Korea
Words by Grace Sun and shots by Alaric Willi
Finding a place to get a tattoo in Korea used to be a feat more difficult than getting your hands on a Hermes Birkin. Even if you could manage to locate an underground artist, you would then be faced with unsanitary conditions. To top it off, the communication barrier made it impossible for foreigners to connect with the artist. That is until these guys came along. We’re talking real artists, international standards, funky studios, and, best of all, no language barriers. These masters of cool we’re just bowled over. Perhaps I say this too often, but Gracie is truly in love!
Iroc Kim, a Korean-American with 13 years in the industry, first came to Korea in 1995 as a singer and it was then that he identified a lack of structure and professionalism in the largely underground tattoo scene here. After working in California with Phillip Spearman, currently ranked the No. 5 tattoo artist in the world, his connections enabled him to fulfill his dream to open up a clean, foreigner-friendly tattoo parlor in Seoul.
â€œThe thing that sets us apart from the other tattoo parlors is that we follow strict sanitary procedures as set out by LA state law, by the book, said Iroc. For each artwork, we take 30 minutes to set up. Everything we use on our customers is brand new and state of the art, including the needles, wraps, sterilizing equipment, and tips for the machine. If we touch something with our latex gloves, we remove it and put a new one on straight away. All our ink is imported directly from the States.
The studio is affiliated with Inkworks Tattoo in California, and Iroc and his artists all hold licenses to attend international tattoo conventions. Tattoo Korea artists have a combined total of 32 years in the industry and can help you develop an idea. Of particular mention is San Lee, the most highly regarded female tattoo artist in Korea.
Needless to say, the language barrier is eradicated and in fact 90% of customers are foreigners, ranging from the military, FBI agents, to local and international celebrities like DJ Skumfrog and the Pussycat Dolls.
Iroc 010-8998-1911, email@example.com
Josh 010-2736-7019, firstname.lastname@example.org
Take the subway to Cheongdam-dong Station (line 7) and get out at exit 10.
Take the first alley to your right, walk up the road for about 300 yards and you’ll see a building that says Baek Seol Heon 백설현). Tattoo Korea is located on the 3rd floor.
Tattoo Times & Tatist
It all began when Jay B, the undisputed leader of tattooing in Korea, returned from the U.S in 2001 and Tattoo Times was born. Not only the CEO and founder of Tattoo Times, Jay B is also the secretary-general of the Korea Tattoo Association.
“He changed the concept of tattooing in Korea,” said Danny, in-house manager at Tattoo Times, who is fluent in English, Chinese and Korean. Another artist is also fluent in Japanese.”After majoring in art when he was in university in the US, Jay B spent time in Thailand learning the trade, and continued to educate himself in Korea,” Danny continued. “Now, besides being the main artist in our studio, he also trains new artists and sets them on their tattooing career.”
Bringing true artistic soul to your skin – that’s their motto and what they do best. In fact, all of Tattoo Times’ eight artists majored in art in college and specialize in customized “freehand” tattoos. Once a design has been used, it will not be recycled and used again.
“Our studios have tattooed many high-profile celebrities,” Danny went on to say. “Just take a look at the albums on our Facebook and Myspace pages. All our pictures are categorized, and each artwork has the name of the artist underneath the logo so that you can choose which artist you want to work with you.”The studio will be moving later this year to form an alliance with Tatist studio. JP Prodigy, the founder of Tatist, learned how to tattoo from Jay B and has been influential in the new wave of clients from China and Japan due to his work for Korean pop groups like TVXQ (東方神起).
Tattoo Times is adamant that they are not trying to be like other tattoo places. As Danny put it, “Tattooing is an art form, and we stay true to that. We don’t offer discounts but we offer the best art. We’re passionate about what we do and we don’t brag “we just prove ourselves through our work.”
Contact: Danny 010-6292-8952, email@example.com
Web: myspace.com/tattootimes, facebook.com/tattootimes,
Sinsa Station (line 3), exit 4. Walk down the street with GS petrol on your right, and turn left at the alley before the overpass bridge. Call Danny for directions.
So if you’ve ever wanted to get a new tattoo, cover up an old one, or go for the plunge these are the best places to go in Korea. There are countless possibilities. For the girls, why not try another color like pale blue or pink? I’m getting a white one done next week. But remember, tattoos stay on your body for life, so communicate well with the artist and make a decision that you won’t regret!
More tattoo parlors:
If you’re someone that likes to shop around, here are some other places we recommend. Check out their profiles and pictures online. Please note that not all these guys can speak English, so you may need a Korean friend to help.
Memento Tattoo Gangnam-gu, Nonhyeon-dong, 010-3345-1092
Contact Memento: http://club.cyworld.com/mementoz,
Hybrid Ink Studio Sinchon St. (line 2, ex. 6), 010-5420-5402
Contact Eru: myspace.com/erutattoo, firstname.lastname@example.org,
G.T.O Tattoo Hongik Univ. St. (line 2, ex. 2), 011-511-0565
King Tattoo Dongdaemun History & Culture Park St.
(line 2, 4, 5) ex. 13, 010-6414-0731, kingtattoo.co.kr
Kingston Tattoo Itaewon St. (line 6), 010-4756-1213
Hongik Tattoo Hapjeong St. (line 2 and 6, ex. 7), 010-2054-2244
Studio Tattoo Ewha Univ. St. (line 2, ex. 3), 016-291-4413
Ryuhon Studio Hongik Univ. St. (line 2), 010-9425-0737
Saegimi Sinchon St. (line 2), 010-2618-2859
Toon Tattoo, Contact Toon (English-speaking): 010-4860-0909