Go to Contents Go to Navigation

Lawmaker promotes bill on tattooing with bold performance

All News 11:18 June 17, 2021

SEOUL, June 17 (Yonhap) -- Rep. Ryu Ho-jeong of the progressive minor Justice Party has taken a bold step in her campaign to liberalize strict regulations on tattooing: revealing her back full of erasable tattoos in a purple dress.

Ryu delivered the performance during a joint news conference with a group of tattooists at the National Assembly on Wednesday, to promote a bill she proposed last week.

"Tattoos you can easily see on the streets are still illegal," she said, claiming a decades-ago court ruling that has prohibited tattoos by non-medical people is "too old for South Korea in the year of 2021."

Rep. Ryu Ho-jeong of the progressive minor Justice Party poses in the National Assembly complex in Seoul in a purple dress, showing erasable tattoos on her back, in this photo provided by her office on June 16, 2021. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)
Rep. Ryu Ho-jeong of the progressive minor Justice Party and unionized tattooists call for the passage of a bill on legalizing tattooing by non-medical artists in the National Assembly complex in Seoul on June 16, 2021, in this photo provided by Ryu's office. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

In Korea, tattooing itself is not illegal but should be only conducted by professional doctors.

This dates back to a 1992 Supreme Court ruling that defined tattooing as a medical service. Article 27 of the Medical Service Act indicates that "medical practices," including tattoos, can only be conducted by licensed medical personnel.

Ryu's bill seeks to create a licensing system that allows licensed non-medical workers to perform body art on other people.

According to the Korea Tattoo Association, there were an estimated 220,000 tattooists and beauty technicians in the country in 2017.

This April 30, 2021, file photo shows a tattooist inking a tattoo on a customer's forearm at a studio in Seoul. (Yonhap)

Ryu said some may admonish her for such a performance. "But lawmakers exist to do things like this," she said.

Ryu, 28, is one of the youngest legislators in Korean parliamentary history. She has often drawn controversy for unconventional moves, such as wearing a red mini dress during a National Assembly session.

"I will speak for people who have been oppressed by social and cultural prejudices and become a sandbag to withstand the consequent counteractions," she said.

"It is OK if some people feel uncomfortable with tattoos because I believe they will not use their discomfort to infringe upon others' freedom."


Send Feedback
How can we improve?
Thanks for your feedback!