South Korean Woman Reveals Illegal Tattoos to Parents


I am Grace Neutral,
a tattoo artist and activist. I don’t know if they’re more
freaked out by my tattoos or the fact that I’m wearing
a Burberry coat in a spa. I’m interested in ideas of alternative beauty and pushing out boundaries
of positive body image. If you can never wear makeup again, How would you feel? I will die. To me the human body is a beautiful thing
in all its forms. What Gracie could have looked like,
if she didn’t f**k her face up. I’ve travelled to South Korea, to explore how old beauty traditions clash with the younger generations attitude
to body image. I’m interested to find out
how flying the flag for alternative beauty can affect your personal relationships. At a club called Mystik, in Seoul, I met a girl called Seulji. I was immediately transfixed by her. She’s covered in tattoos. I wanted to find out more. This is Seulji and
I just met her upstairs in the club and she has the most incredible
collections of tattoos that I’ve seen. Your tattoos are beautiful. What do your parents think
about all these tattoos? Oh, actually they don’t
know about my tattoos. How do you hide all of this? I always try to cover my tattoos and always wear long sleeves
and plants to cover my tattoos. Are they scared that
you might not be able to… …get a job or something like that? because that was mom’s fear
when I was young. Yeah. Sure, sure. Jobs and friends
and, you know, like everything. I have my plans to tell them,
but I am not sure when it’s gonna be. I was shocked that
Seulji had been able to keep all of her tattoos,
a secret from her parents. But I wasn’t surprised,
she felt she had to do this, considering the attitude
towards body art in South Korea. The next morning,
I got a call from Seulji. She decided she wanted to tell
her parents about her tattoos and wanted me to come home with her,
for moral support. Okay, me and Seulgi are going
to go meet her parents and do the big reveal. We’re heading to Cheongju
and yeah, I’m pretty nervous. I’m not gonna lie. I think, I feel like I’m 14 again and I am revealing my first
tattoos to my mum. Yeah, it’s gonna be interesting,
I’m excited. In Korea, there are many people who think tattoos are a bad thing, still. Do you know why that is? Oh, maybe because they think
it started from gang members. Like the origin of tattoos
was a gang sort of thing, a bad thing. So, it they saw you in the
summer time wearing a short top, do you think a lot of the older
generation would judge you for that? Like, when I was in the subway,
I think maybe last year, in summer time. A very old lady just suddenly yelled at me, and said very bad words about me. How did that make you feel? It hurts because, yeah it hurts but… It’s very sad for me to say this,
but I’m getting used to it. Are you nervous about meeting your parent? Oh, I’m a little nervous, yeah. I’m a little bit nervous as well, you know. Being with Seulji took me back to when I first told my parents about my tattoos. I had no idea how they were going to react. Who are you more worried about,
your mum or your dad? My dad actually. My father said to me when I was younger, when I wanted to pierce my ears, He couldn’t understand
why a girl would want her ears pierced. In Korea, the expectation of
what a woman should be is more apparent. So, we’re waiting now,
just to go up to meet Seulji’s parents. I feel sick. I’m not going to lie.
I’m really really nervous. I don’t know if the fact that I’m here,
as well, is going to make it worse. So, I do feel a little bit stressed right now. And just, also worried, I don’t want to make it
any worse for Seulji. As nervous as I am through,
I am really glad that we’re doing this. Because I think it’s really important to
break down these stigmas and boundaries and open up the minds of
people as much as we can. Seulji wants to pursue
a career in tattooing and she wants to obtain a good
relationship with her family. So if we can kind of break down
this stigma around tattooing by starting here today,
I think that’s great. Because that’s why I’m here basically. -Nice to meet you.
-Nice to meet you. -How are you?
-Fine. -Please, sit down.
-Thank you. It’s something that I’ve always thought
I’d have to reveal… and I thought this would be a
good opportunity to tell you. I’ve had some photos taken of me. So shall I start by showing you them? Yes. So this is on your back? Gosh. We aren’t opposing something you like… or what you’re interested in. The environment and society of
Korea doesn’t accept it yet. I know I will get people judging and
drawing negative assumptions about me. But if I can succeed… …there’s a chance that a lot of the
prejudice towards me will disappear. You have to go through every little step… …and face the criticisms and the judgements shame and embarrassment hurled at you. How are you going to handle it? I don’t want to hear people talking badly
about my beautiful daughter. When I lay down to sleep… or when I’m thinking about you… it hurts my feelings a lot. What saddens me more, isn’t you. It’s when you’re watching
the news on the television… and they’re showing a person being arrested… …and they have a tattoo
on their body somewhere… they will show a close up on it. It’s not because of the tattoos
they’re doing it. I can change that. Well if you can, that’s great. Because you like it, I’m trying to understand. I wish you the best of luck… so no one looks at it
as something bad anymore. Thank you A lot of things have hit home. With experiences that I’ve been through, growing up in a place where,
not necessarily everyone accepts you. I think that the bit that just got me was, after she showed her parents the picture, you could just see her mum… Just all these thoughts
running through her head. So, I was worried that
there was going to be this big kind of kick off moment. But the fact that, they both just asked any questions, that any kind of normal, loving,
caring parents would ask. They really are pioneers
for the older generation in South Korea of being open-minded
towards the new generation. Yeah, I’m really proud of Seulji as well. I feel really good about it actually. I just need a minute,
to kind of think about everything. I found Seulji’s journey very emotional. But it was a great experience
to be part of. It was obvious that
Seulji’s parents just want what’s best for her. It really felt like by them
choosing to accept her body art, it brought them all closer together. I took it as a positive sign, that prejudiced against non-mainstream
body image, can and is changing. As I headed back to Seoul,
I thought about something, I’ve been hearing since I arrived. And again heard from Seulji’s parents. People still associate
tattoos with gangsters. I had to find out more.

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