When it comes to tattoos, South Korean tattoo artists are considered some of the most talented in the biz. But oddly enough, getting a tatt in K-dramaland is still considered taboo and illegal unless it's done by a licensed medical professional. The law, passed in 1992, pointed to the probable risk of needle infections as the reason for banning the practice.
Even then, the "underground" tattoo community is thriving in SK. Korean tattoo artists operate discreetly and continue to promote their craft on social media despite the law. Despite that, there is a growing number of Korean celebrities who’ve gotten tattooed and have broken a bit of that societal stigma—BTS’ Jungkook, and actresses Gong Hyo Jin and Bae Suzy being some of them.
But what makes Korean-made tattoos so desirable isn’t only because they’re celebrity-approved. Korean tattoo artist have broadened and propelled the art of tattoos to a whole new spectrum of aesthetics. Not only can do they elaborate inks, but have also propagated tiny, delicate, hair-like and watercolor-esque tatts that look more painterly and “light” on the skin. And one artist who has cemented themselves in the SK tattoo scene for this style is Eden.
Known as @eden_tattoo_ on Instagram, Eden has perfected the art of bright and lively inks that look just about ready to pop out of your skin. Their color technique is simply beautiful, and it’s no wonder that they’ve become a go-to artist for these cartoon-esque, painterly designs. “Since I was a teenager, I loved art so much that I spent time drawing every day. So, I graduated from a design-related school, both in high school and university,” Eden tells Preview in an exclusive interview. “For those who like my work, the process of drawing the only picture and having it through tattoos has an inexplicable sense of pride and joy.”
When asked why most of their work involves leaves or nature elements, Eden gets quite sentimental about their craft. “The nature tattoo, which will remain unchanged in the passing time, reminds us of the season of the moment we want to remember. The subject of nature is of great significance to leave memories of the moment.”
Having said that, Eden reiterates why your tattoo should mean more than just a surface level beauty mark. “Tattoo is art that we spend our whole lives together. Therefore, it is easy to find the answer by thinking about what you like the most and what you want to leave as a lifelong memory.”
So if you’re planning to get inked in Korea or eyeing a design that echoes a distinct Korean aesthetic, we asked Eden to run down five of the most popular tattoos designs in SK you should consider getting! Trust us, it’ll be hard to just pick one.
5 Popular Tattoo Designs in Korea, According to a Tattoo Artist
1. Small leaves and vines flowing through the body
“Plants contain various meanings," Eden shares. A quick Google search will tell you that plant tattoos usually symbolize stability and growth. But besides its significant meanings, the design seems to standout in SK simply for how it looks. "In the case of small leaves, it is popular because it is a small but eye-catching, and looks just like wearing a small accessory.”
2. Dynamic animals
When in comes to animal tattoos, Eden tells us that it's all about movement. An animal creeping or crawling across your skin looks more personal than a static artwork. “My paintings are specialized in expressing free movement and flow. Especially in the case of marine organism, it is gaining a lot of popularity because of its movement as if it were swimming in the water.”
3. Movie or cartoon characters
"I can turn a movie scene into a tattoo and capture the joy and meaning of that moment,” says Eden. But don't think of live-action movie characters, but more of those from animated flicks! Characters from popular Studio Ghibli movies are all the rave because of the art style and heartfelt meaning behind those films.
4. Your pet
Pet lovers, this might be the sign for you to finally get a tatt! According to artist, a tattoo that turns the image of a pet into a chacter and "[highlights] a clear expression as if a sticker was attached" has become popular over the years in Korea. This is a great way to remember your furry friends in such a meaningful yet artistic way that matches your personality, too.
5. Famous paintings
If you're a lover of art much like Eden, the artist points out that recreating world-famous masterpieces has become quite the trend these days. "I work for those who want to capture world-famous masterpieces," they share. True enough, having a rendition of a Van Gogh or Monet on your skin is nothing short of a statement people won't be able to ignore.
*Answers have been edited for clarity.
See more of Eden's work on their Instagram.
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