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South Korean court upholds tattoo ban

FILE PHOTO: A tattooed man and woman wear heavy boots as they walk through Seoul's trendy Hongdae shopping district
FILE PHOTO: A tattooed man and woman wear heavy boots as they walk through the trendy Hongdae shopping district in Seoul May 3, 2015. REUTERS/Thomas Peter/File Photo

March 31, 2022

From Yeni Seo and Minwoo Park

SEOUL (Reuters) – Seoul’s constitutional court upheld a tattoo ban on Thursday, confirming South Korea is the only developed country to only allow medical professionals to perform the procedure.

Tattoo artists scoffed at the decision, calling it backwards and lacking in cultural understanding.

Despite being banned for decades, there are nearly 50,000 tattoo artists in South Korea who risk police raids and prosecution for conducting their trade.

Violation of the ban carries fines of up to 50 million won ($41,300) and imprisonment – ​​usually two years, although the law provides for up to life imprisonment.

Tattoo artists’ associations have launched a series of court cases since 2017 challenging the law as it violates their freedom of expression and right to practice a profession.

By a vote of 5 to 4, the Constitutional Court on Thursday ruled that the law was constitutional. It dismissed the lawsuits, saying tattooing came with potential side effects and safety issues.

“The limited medical knowledge and skills associated with tattooing cannot ensure the level of care that medical professionals can provide, treatment that may be required before or after the procedure,” the ruling said.

A union of 650 tattoo artists issued a statement condemning the decision, calling it “backward” and “not worth a dime”.

“The court still walks on four legs when all citizens walk upright,” said Kim Do-yoon, the union boss, a well-known tattoo artist better known as Doy.

Kim said the court had made no progress since a 1992 Supreme Court decision that copied a Japanese ruling that said tattooing was a medical activity, although Japanese courts have since overturned that decision.

Kim Sho-yun, vice president of the Korea Tattoo Federation, also criticized the recent ruling, saying the current law is “nonsense,” especially given the country’s growing tattoo market and rising global status.

“Why do you insist that tattooing is a medical procedure when doctors can’t and don’t do it?” she tearfully told a news conference outside the courthouse, vowing to continue the fight.

The popularity of “K tattoos” has risen sharply in recent years both at home and abroad thanks to their fine line designs, delicate details and use of bold colors.

While tattoos are usually covered up on TV, many Korean celebrities, including members of K-pop bands, have flaunted them on social media.

Polls show most South Koreans support legalizing tattooing, but medical associations oppose it, saying needle use is an invasive procedure that could harm the body.

Ahead of this month’s election, President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol expressed his support for legalizing so-called cosmetic tattoos, which are semi-permanent and popular for emphasizing eyebrows, eye lines and hairlines.

($1 = 1,212 won)

(Reporting by Yeni Seo, Daewoung Kim, and Minwoo Park; Writing by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Bradley Perrett)

https://www.oann.com/s-korean-court-upholds-tattooing-ban/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=s-korean-court-upholds-tattooing-ban South Korean court upholds tattoo ban

Bobby Allyn

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