In their downtown tattoo shop in Seoul, tattooist Eda and the staff spend their days breaking the law.
“You can see a lot of people with tattoos, but performing a tattoos on a person is actually illegal," said Eda.
In South Korea, you can have a tattoo but it’s technically against the law to give someone a tattoo.
“Because the performing tattoos is believed to be an act of performance without a medical license. You can’t do it legally, so the biggest reason the government bans it is that doing the tattoo through a needle can spread infection,” Eda explained.
Not that the technicality is stopping Eda who says business has been picking up. Of their clientele, 30 percent is men and 70 percent is women.
“Tattoo designs have changed and a lot of women customers find it more comfortable working with a female tattooist,” said Eda.
This is in part because of her designs, which are more like water colors than traditional tattoos.
She says they have had a few scary close calls with cops.
“We don’t worry on a day-to-day basis, but there are some incidents that are a wakeup call for us. A week ago a police patrol car pulled up in front of our parlor and came in, but he was actually asking for a parking spot in front of the store,” said Eda.
So for now, with business booming, Eda says she’s willing to risk breaking the law for the sake of making art.
“It’s kind of a hot culture right now,” said Eda.