Are tattoos allowed in North Korea? The short answer is that yes they are, and you will not be refused entry into the country, or to monuments if you have ink. Obviously there are some nuances to this that we will delve into later.
This is actually a question we get asked a lot and have indeed covered in our FAQ (among other things), which you can read here.
Are tattoos illegal in North Korea?
Another one of the classic urban myths about North Korea is that tattoos are illegal, this is completely not that case, tattoos are legal and you will see many North Koreans with ink. There is though no tattoo scene as such, with most North Koreans that do have tattoos having served in the armed forces, be it the KPA, Air Force, or Navy.
Sailors in particular are most likely to have had ink done and this includes those that have served in the merchant navy, as well as in service.
Is there a commercial tattoo industry in North Korea?
North Korea as a socialist state plans its economy, so there are no commercial tattoo parlors in the country. Again they tend to be of the military variety when you do see them.
To read about what a socialist country is click here .
You will generally not see freestyle tattoos in North Korea and I for one at least have never seen a woman with a tattoo, although I am sure they may well exist as they certainly serve in the military of the country.
Can I get a tattoo in North Korea?
If you’ve been following so far you will have got the gist that no, you cannot get a tattoo done in North Korea, short of joining the US military, serving at the DMZ and then defecting to the DPRK.
We don’t suggest this, although it has been done before – check out the movie Crossing The Line for the tale of the Americans that indeed did this.
What is the etiquette around tattoos in North Korea?
When you travel to places such as the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, you are expected to dress smartly and tattoos where possible should indeed be covered up. If you have hand tattoos, or whatever obviously this cannot be done. The most important thing is that you show a degree of respect.
When you visit places such as Wonsan, where it is possible to swim on the beach, obviously your tattoos will be out and visible to the masses, again this is no issue, so long as what you have is not too racy, or political sensitive.
I have a Military Tattoo, can I still go to North Korea?
OK, so whilst Americans can no longer visit the DPRK, we previously brought in ex-servicemen who had US military tattoos. Again as stated the North Koreans far from being offended completely get this and have the utmost respect for people that serve in the military of their nation, even if that nation happens to be an an enemy of theirs.
What tattoos are not acceptable in North Korea?
When it comes to the DPRK respect should always be shown to the leaders, as well as the emblems of the country – this pretty much goes without saying, but if you have a tattoo that falls into this category then you should not be coming to the country.
How about getting a tattoo before I go to North Korea?
That’s obviously up to you, but it is certainly no big deal to get a tattoo in China with prices not only being cheap, but there being some great artists – you can see some choice tattoo designs here.
Although keep in mind that you will need to bring your own tattoo cleaning equipment as it is not exactly readily available in the streets of Pyongyang.
Are tattoos allowed in North Korea?
Yes they are!