Even in 2014, tattoos are considered taboo in South Korea. For parts of the 20th Century, tattoos were only worn by gangs and the Korean mob, sending the message that tattoos are not an art form but a sign that someone should not be trusted. According to the Korean Herald and Global Post, tattoo artists in Korea are often underground (but open in plain sight in many instances) and move around often in order to avoid being caught by authorities and potentially raided. Tattoos are only legally allowed to be applied by doctors in Korea.
Today, the tide is turning on how tattoos are viewed in society. Young people view tattoos as a form of expression and art despite the old feelings toward tattoos that may remain in some aspects of society. With the change of attitude, many K-Pop idols are wearing their tattoos proudly for all to see, and companies have even taken to applying fake tattoos on their artists to show artistry and rebellion. Out of the idols that are out of the “tattoo closet,” whose tats are the real deal and whose are not?
Clockwise from Left: Park Bom, 2NE1, and Minzy sport their “tattoos.” The card suits have yet to be confirmed./via YGLadies
Various MVs and promotions have boasted some fake tattoos such as Minzy’s tattoos in “I Am the Best” and Bom and Dara’s temporary tattoos for different promotions; let’s not forget the tattoos they sported in the “Ugly” MV. In 2013, CL posted a picture of all four girls sporting different tattoos representing a different suit in a deck of cards. Dara has a few pics of her Club tattoo, but it appears to change in size in each image.
So far, there is no indication the girls have real tattoos although they appear convincing.
Jooyeon, Jungha, and Nana flaunt their tattoos for “First Love.”/via Instagram, “First Love” MV
After School (Jooyeon, Jungha, Nana)
In the MV for “First Love,” the lovely ladies of After School sported different tattoos on their legs, shoulders, and arms. The tattoos show the girls’ tougher sides when paired with their sensual and innocent personas showcased in the MV. While convincing, these tattoos were fake and only for the purpose of the video and “First Love” promotions. Jooyeon sported a Henna tattoo, while Jungha and Nana either had theirs drawn on or had some high quality peel-and-stick tats.
Amber’s tattoos focus on her faith./via OneHallyu
Amber’s tattoos—one on her wrist, the other on her back—are both real. Amber’s wrist tattoo —“Faith/Pray”— forms a cross. Her back tattoo has writing on it, but it’s rarely clearly displayed, so it’s unclear what it consists of other than it looks large and has a cross too.
Yongguk recently added another tattoo to his growing collection! In addition to his new “viva la revolucion” tattoo on his chest, he also has “do what u like and luv What u do” on his left shoulder and “mark art, not war” on his right arm.
The Yongguk tattoo collection/via Wattpad and Bangstagram
As for fan reaction, many tend to agree his back tattoo is the best, even inspiring to many who later got similar tattoos. His latest chest tattoo has experienced a split of love and hate. It’s his body and he can do what he pleases, though, regardless of how fans may feel.
Block B (Zico & Taeil)
Zico and Taeil both have real and interesting tattoos adorning their bodies. Zico’s tattoos have stories associated with them.
Clockwise from Left: Taeil’s images as seen on fan photos; Zico’s chest tattoos; Taeil’s “MVP Lucky” tattoo/via
His “John the Apostle” is his baptized name, and the woman is an image of his mother. Fans seem to be divided on his “mom” tattoo calling it “sweet,” where others feel it makes him unapproachable. In addition to these, he also has the Shroud of Turin on his arm; one below “John the Apostle,” one near his left wrist, and some bees along his side.
Taeil has several tattoos on his chest and arms. For the most part, he does well covering them up since there are few pictures with them. However, he has tattoos ranging from tigers to roses to his “MVP LUCKY” tattoo on his arm.
The forever-fresh-faced K-Pop queen does have a tattoo of a large, fancily-adorned “B” on her upper back. In the center of the “B” stands an angel, a sweet homage to her name’s acronym “Beat of Angel.”
BoA’s ornate “B” features an angel and clean lines./via Ningin
GD has eight confirmed tattoos:
- “Too fast to live, too young to die” on his back
- “Vita dolce” and a Keith Haring running heart on his right arm
- A Dragon ball on his left shoulder
- GD’s tattoos on display/via loveartandstylish.com
- “Mind control” on his left side
- “Moderato” on his left arm
- “Forever Young” on his right side
- Two X’s right above his belly button
Henry felt “trapped” by his bad boy image, so he ditched the fake tattoos/via WorldWideELFS
Followers of Super Junior M may have been shocked when, in 2013, teasers showed a heavily-tattooed Henry Lau for his “Trapped” solo debut. At subsequent fan-meetings, Henry was sans tattoos. Even without the fan-meetings, the tattoos for “Trapped” promotions appeared to be elaborate Henna and peel-and-sticks. So far, it doesn’t appear
Henry has any tattoos at all.
HongKi gets tattoos added to his collection/via Tattoo Korea
FTIsland’s leader and resident fashionista, HongKi, has a few real tattoos dotting his body. Above both elbows, he has “FREEDOM” inked. His forearms have a pair of skeletons, showing his love for skeletons and skulls. One skeleton skateboards, while another sits on a martini glass blow-drying its flamed hair. Some images on the Internet show he has his Skull Hong logo tattooed on his shoulder, but it’s unclear whether this one is real or Henna.
Both Hyorin’s tattoos are visible for once./via RealKpoptattoos.tumblr.com
Sistar has two tattoos: A small one on her right arm, and a large cross on her stomach. The cross tattoo has a story around it as she got it to hide some scars she had from surgeries when she was young. However, these tattoos are rarely seen on music shows since the producers require her to cover them up using tape or makeup. Many of the music shows are on the conservative side, so tattoos are seen as a potential bad influence on young people. But, you can see her tattoos in a few MVs and during concerts.
HyunA’s tribute to her mother is one of K-Pop’s most recognizable tattoos./via Ningin
HyunA’s tattoos, may be polarizing for fans and anti-fans alike since tattoos are more taboo on females than males and because HyunA gets a general bad rap due to her image. Despite this, she does have five tattoos: “Fatum” (lower back), “Tempus” (right upper arm); a cross (left upper arm); and a tattoo on her shoulder.
Her biggest tattoo is on her back and says “My mother is the heart that keeps me alive.” Many fans actually love this tattoo and adore its sweet meaning, but the K-Pop community is torn on liking the other ones.
Jay Park could probably boast that he’s one of the most-tattooed artists in the K-Pop industry!
Jay Park’s notable tattoos include stars on his neck; a lion on his hand; a lion on his chest with “I am truly blessed” and “Always come proper” across it; “Heart of a lion” written on his chest; the “AOM” tattoo behind his ear for his “Art of Movement” B-Boy crew; and “JWalkerz” on his back for his fans.
While there are fans who feel Jay Park should lay off the tattoos a bit, they are pieces of art unique to him.
This is only a handful of Jay Park’s tattoos!/via AllKPop
– Joelle Halon