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The Student News Site of Daegu International School

Jets Flyover

Daegu International School's student news site
ANNOUNCEMENTS
  • Spring Break from April 8th-12th.
  • HSSC Baseball Game @Samsung Lions Park on April 4th.
  • [HS] Friendly Match Soccer vs. DMHS @Camp Walker on April 2nd.
  • Don't forget your spirit shirts on Friday.
The Student News Site of Daegu International School

Jets Flyover

The Student News Site of Daegu International School

Jets Flyover

The pen is mightier than the sword

Illegal beauty tattoos compete with plastic surgery
Permanent make-up tattoos rise in popularity as they allow natural beauty enhancement with fewer risks than surgery. Illustration by Elisa Triolo.

Despite Korea’s conservative mindset, a niche trend of cosmetic tattoos prevails in the country. From a high school girl to a middle-aged man, individuals stain their eyebrows, tint their lips, and draw hairlines to enhance their appearance. However, even with such a boom, 91% of tattoos in Korea remain illegal

Beauty shop worker Kim, who asked to remain anonymous due to the illicit nature of her work, said, “Tattooing isn’t really legal in Korea. But I think we really work hard to make the environment clean for the procedure and the tattooist usually gets a license too, so I think nothing is really wrong with it.”

An extremely high amount of customers get their tattoos illegally in Korea. Majority of tattooists can’t perform a medical procedure due to their lack of license. Image by Christine Park.

For the past 30 years, Koreans labeled body art as “shady” because of its close connection with gangsters– until the early 2000s, tats warned commoners of hoodlums. As a result, the public collectively associated marks on skins with criminals. Celebrities are required to cover their tattoos on screen and civilians with body art struggle with employment.

The type of occupation also matters in the leniency of tattoos. Depending on the job, employers view body art as inappropriate or tolerable. Image by Christine Park.

Beauty tattoos, on the other hand, evade stereotypes. Even the older generation frequently utilizes inking procedures that allow permanent/semi-permanent eyebrows, lips, moles, eyeliner, hairlines, and aegyo-sal.

Aegyo-sal is the layer of skin underneath your eyes that appears when you smile. Make-up and cosmetic procedures that highlight this area lead the trend for both the Korean and Japanese beauty industries. Illustration by Christine Park.

The trend of cosmetic ink permeates the whole country, from celebrities to the average person you meet on the street. Kim said, “I think the general public is pretty forgiving when it comes to beauty tattoos being illegal. Makeup tattoos are just a simple touch on what’s already there, but for body tattoos though, since it is like creating a whole new work of art, people are more against it.”

Although these procedures also break the law, they remain widely accessible to the public. Kim explains, “Make-up tattoos are done in various nail shops and clinics because they are all beauty-related. To just focus on one type of procedure like nail extension, there is a limit. It is way more advantageous to learn beyond one practice because you have to be appealing to the customer. It is a merit for a shop to say we do nail extensions, lashes, and permanent brows, rather than saying we do lashes and that’s all.”

Known to be the empire of plastic surgery, Korea takes number one in the world when it comes to the proportion of citizens who have undergone a cosmetic procedure. For every 1000 people in the country, around 8.9 of them experienced plastic surgery. Long vacations, such as winter and summer breaks, get referred to as the plastic season as high school, middle school, and university students get their faces done during this time. 

Not only do people tolerate beauty tattoos, but many aspire to get them done with a positive outlook. Image by Christine Park.

Now, beauty tattoos have risen as an alternative to plastic surgery with the benefits of a more natural look. They also receive less criticism as well. Nothing seems more practical than an easy tattoo touch-up.

Kim says, “I don’t think beauty tattoos can replace the plastic surgery industry completely, but they will help people feel great satisfaction with lower prices compared to surgeries. I feel a distinct difference between the two though. Beauty tattoos are more like permanent makeup, whereas surgery changes your features entirely. The biggest advantage of having these tattoos is that they make your life easier because they reduce the time required to apply makeup. But the biggest disadvantage is that they are permanent. Even if your style changes or if you don’t like the tattoo later on, it is difficult to erase it or redo it.”

Ms. Woorim Lee at DIS tattooed her eyebrows. As a consumer of the trend, she shared similar opinions. “Cosmetic tattoos make it easy to get prepared in the morning. I don’t have to worry about different shapes daily once I get the tattoo. Beauty tattoos sound safer since they are technically not plastic surgery. This makes the decision to get such a procedure done easier. But I think there is a clear difference between the two. For permanent makeup, even if there is a mistake, it is less devastating than surgery. At least you don’t have to go under the knife, so it sounds nicer. Parent’s approval will be easier too, so I think a tattoo is a better option than plastic surgery.”

Kim added, “At the very beginning of the industry, cosmetic tattoos only had eyebrow tattoos. Now it is going wild. Moles, aegyosal, and lips can all be tattooed. I expect the industry to grow well into the future, especially with the boom of K-beauty. More advanced skills will be put in place and people will have to worry less about any regrets that follow. And the more these tattoos become natural, I believe the more people will get them. Old beauty tattoos were done by needles going deep into the skin, but now we just go on the outer skin so side effects are eliminated.”

Nearly half of the Korean population doesn’t even understand the regulation on tattoos clearly, and the legality of the matter remains in the gray area. Image by Christine Park.

Individuals from different cultures may feel bewildered by such a trend, but there lies a correlation between Korean culture and their obsession with their looks. Kids hear comments about their appearances and weight from a young age from family members and friends. Relatives bluntly throw phrases such as “You’d look better if you lost weight” or “You should get your eyes done to look better” at family gatherings. Parents don’t help either as they recommend plastic surgery to their children or even treat it as a “gift.”

The older the generation, the greater their bias is against tattoos. Most elders strongly oppose the business despite their insensitivity about appearances which builds insecurities among young adults. Image by Christine Park.

Our nation prioritizes aesthetics to the point where even companies consider their employees’ looks as one of their prerequisites. Kim explains, “Beauty tattoos are trendy in this country because Koreans are pretty sensitive about others’ views of their looks. We want others to think we look good and natural sometimes to the point that it is quite too much.” In a country where 9 out of 10 people say beauty matters significantly, perhaps we shouldn’t be so shocked by its fanaticism for beauty tattoos. After all, what gives us the right to judge others when lookism looms over all of our eyebrows?

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About the Contributors
Serena Travers, Writer
A rising senior, Serena Travers returns to continue her avid passion for journalism. This year, she aspires to share her thoughts, meet new people, and take the best of the best photos. She also plans to dabble in design to bring the yearbook to the next level as she leaves high school. She combines her love for psychology with her writing. Her excitement and dedication to the Flyover staff is evident by the fact that she takes two media classes at DIS.
Elisa Triolo, Writer and Illustrator
Elisa Triolo, a new writer for Flyover, brings a whimsical vibe to the team. Supported by compliments from teachers and experienced people alike, Elisa immerses herself into the abyss of words, where she can bask in her ability to write. With a spirited style to bring her imagery to life, Elisa employs her dreams and manages to weave them into her stories. She also wears Motorsports, history, and art on her sleeve, and loves to share her opinions.

Christine Park, Illustrator
After years of persuasion from her peers that sparked intrinsic motivation, Christine Park finally enters Journalism as a senior. Chris’s greatest passion revolves around the field of art and anime. Her role as the president of the National Art Honors Society and Visual Arts Club proves the enthusiasm she bears for artistry. As the new illustrator for the Jets Flyover, Chris is eager to dive into journalism and share her artwork and comics with a wider audience.
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