Neophyte lawmaker uses BTS’ Jungkook to push bill to legalize tattoo artists in Korea

Published June 9, 2021, 2:31 PM

by Jonathan Hicap

Rep. Ryu Ho-jeong (left) and photo of BTS’ Jungkook with bandage covering his tattoo which she used in discussing her proposed tattoo business act (Instagram / Facebook / KBS) 

A neophyte lawmaker in South Korea is using K-pop idol group BTS member Jungkook to push for legislation to make tattoo artists legal in South Korea.

Rep. Ryu Ho-jeong, who became a proportional representative under the Justice Party in the April 2020 election, posted on social media the details of a draft bill called Tattoo Business Act that would make tattooing by tattoo artists legal.

Currently, only medical professionals can perform tattooing in Korea and non-medical people who do it are considered illegal.

According to Korean media, tattooing by non-medical persons has been illegal since Korea’s Supreme Court ruled in 1992 that only medical personnel can perform it.

In pushing for the bill to gain support from the public, Rep. Ryu has used BTS’ Jungkook’s photos showing his tattoos covered by bandages as an example, which drew criticisms from netizens.

“Take the tape off of BTS,” Rep. Ryu posted on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. “Have you ever seen tape on your favorite celebrity’s body? This is a hideous sight, which is often seen on Korean television as it is the rules of the broadcasters not to expose tattoos,” according to the Korea JoongAng Daily.

The Korea Communications Standards Commission prohibits the exposure of tattoos on TV. K-pop artists who have visible tattoos cover them with tapes and bandages when they appear or perform on TV.

While there is no specific provision under the law that bars the showing of tattoos on TV, the commission applies the provision for the protection of children and adolescents, and healthy lifestyle.

In her argument, Rep. Ryu said that banning tattoos on TV is not because of broadcast review rules.

“Claims that tattoos harm moral feelings or emotions, or that they adversely affect young viewers are not persuasive in the face of freedom of artistic expression. However, ‘tattooing’ is still illegal. The ‘system’ was not able to keep up with the changes in the world that respect the individuality and creativity of free individuals,” she said.

She added, “Beautiful paintings and wonderful words on tattoos that are common around us are illegal. In an era of 3 million people with tattoos, domestic tattooists with the best technology and high artistry swept world competitions and are deemed as outstanding artists on the world stage but ignored by Korea.”

While her intention to file a bill to make tattoo artists legal in Korea, Rep. Ryu has been criticized by Korean netizens for using Jungkook in pushing the measure.

“It’s nice to have a bill but you’re using the face of a certain celebrity too much. Please delete the photo,” one Korean netizen wrote.

Another said, “Please take down the photo. Do you have to use the artist’s photo to make a political statement?”

“I understand your intention but the method is wrong. If you want to convey your message accurately, you should have uploaded photos of tattooists who are prominent in the world, rather than taking a single artist’s photo as an example,” one wrote.