Lawmaker shows tattoos on her back to make a point
Rep. Ryu Ho-jeong of the Justice Party has taken a bold step in her campaign to liberalize strict regulations on tattooing: revealing a back full of erasable tattoos.
Ryu delivered the performance during a joint news conference with a group of tattooists at the National Assembly on Wednesday, to promote a bill she proposed last week.
"Tattoos you can easily see on the streets are still illegal," she said, claiming a decades-ago court ruling that has prohibited tattoos by non-medical people is "too old for South Korea in the year of 2021."
In Korea, tattooing itself is not illegal but is supposed to only be done by professional doctors.
This dates back to a 1992 Supreme Court ruling that defined tattooing as a medical service.
Article 27 of the Medical Service Act indicates that "medical practices," including tattoos, can only be conducted by licensed medical personnel.
Ryu's bill seeks to create a licensing system that allows licensed non-medical workers to perform body art on other people.
According to the Korea Tattoo Association, there were an estimated 220,000 tattooists and beauty technicians in the country in 2017.
Ryu said some may admonish her for such a performance. "But lawmakers exist to do things like this," she said.
Ryu, 28, is one of the youngest legislators in Korean parliamentary history. She has courted controversy for unconventional moves, such as wearing a red mini dress during a National Assembly session.
"I will speak for people who have been oppressed by social and cultural prejudices and become a sandbag to withstand the consequent counteractions," she said.
"It is OK if some people feel uncomfortable with tattoos because I believe they will not use their discomfort to infringe upon others' freedom."