Tattoos and permanent body art have been around for centuries, but the issue of people being judged and having their character maligned because of tattoos placed on their body has been a controversial one for the last few decades.
A trending YouTube series was shared around recently titled “Exploring Korea’s Illegal Tattooing Scene.” In the video, Grace Neutral, activist and tattoo artist, explores Korea’s views of beauty and body image through the illegal practice of permanent tattoos in Korea. Essentially, it is not illegal to get a tattoo in Korea, but the only people who can legally give them are doctors or other medical professionals.
Through the series of videos, Neutral interviews different people from all different backgrounds discussing some of the major cosmetic surgeries Koreans get done to fit a certain image. Surgeries like double eyelid surgery, jawline reduction, and rhinoplasty are surgeries done very frequently and are widely accepted in attempt to reach a more “beautiful” standard.
Both situations – the idea that tattoos are “underground” and getting drastic cosmetic surgeries are the norm – really shows the hypocrisy of people hating on tattoos. A lot of people will argue that tattoos are permanent and that’s a reason not to get a tattoo – big shocker: so are cosmetic surgeries.
Today, tattoos are becoming very popular. Personally, I have always loved tattoos. I think they can be beautiful forms of individual expression and give an insight into aspects of other people’s culture. Above all, both cosmetic surgery and tattoos are forms of altering ones body to create a certain image. While tattoos are often put on for religious beliefs, in memory of loved ones, and artistic expression, Korea’s six billion dollar beauty industry is thriving off of people’s insecurity and the mistaken belief that their worth as a human is based on the shallow, temporary definition of what a few elites decided is pretty.
With a situation like this, you can’t help but ask: Where do we draw the line that one form of body alteration is considered the norm while the other carries a stigma that has caused people to not get hired for certain jobs? Tattoos have absolutely no effect on intelligence, personality, or skill set – all of which have significantly more value in the real world than anything exterior could compare to.
It is time to stop being judgmental about tattoos. It goes beyond the idea of whether you should get one or not, but more of the idea that people should stop getting judged on exterior values when those values are constantly changing based on how the beauty industry wants to profit. You can’t tell me if the cosmetic industry found a way to do tattoos for people and profit off it, they wouldn’t market to make them acceptable.
There should be no exceptions to the standard of modifying beauty to the extent that tattoos have reached. There is a major disconnect between the idea that one body alteration is significantly more ok than the other – its not. Tattoos represent the individuality of a person while cosmetic surgeries thrive on insecurity. Our culture wants to define ‘beauty’ in a very narrow, unhealthy way that doesn’t allow the true beauty of individuality and self-acceptance to come through.
Drake, Baer. “The Most Popular Plastic Surgery Operation in South Korea Has a Controversial past.” Tech Insider. October 6, 2015. Accessed June 9, 2016. http://www.techinsider.io/the-most-popular-plastic-surgery-in-korea-2015-10.
Neutral, Grace. “Exploring Korea’s Illegal Tattooing Scene.” ID RSS. May 3, 2016. Accessed June 9, 2016. https://i-d.vice.com/en_gb/video/exploring-koreas-illegal-tattooing-scene.