JEJU WEEKLY

  • Updated 2020.8.5 10:49
  • All Articles
  • member icon
  • facebook cursor
  • twitter cursor
Culture
The 'new school' of tattooingTattoo shop opens in Shin Jeju catering to the contemporary tastes of Korean tattoo lovers
폰트키우기 폰트줄이기 프린트하기 메일보내기 신고하기
승인 2014.04.01  09:16:50
페이스북 트위터
▲ Studio owner Simon Han (left) and tattooist Mir. Photo by Douglas MacDonald

Simon Han is the owner of "Tattooist," a new tattoo studio situated in Shin Jeju, Jeju City, which provides studio space for tattooists to ply their trade on the holiday island. The artists stay for periods of weeks to a few months and I was invited to watch famed Korean tattooist “Mir” as he performed his craft in late-March.

Mir had already begun work when I arrived. I watched as he carefully drew an intricate picture of a bird surrounded by flowers on a young mother's left shoulder. Noting my surprise, the engaging Mir told me that 70 percent of his customers are women, mostly young, university students, a sharp contrast from his macho clientele just a few years ago. In fact the entire market for his tattoos has changed a lot over the years. In the early days, clients would come in with a photo and say, "I want this." Today he sits down with more sophisticated customers and discusses options over the course of several consultations and drawing sessions.

▲ Choosing the inks. Photo by Douglas MacDonald

Mir, whose name means "dragon" in Korean, had wanted to become a tattoo artist since middle school when he and his friends would tattoo each other using sharp needles and ink. Their work looked terrible according to Mir. "One day I got a tattoo that was supposed to be a spider but it looked like a cockroach", he explained with a laugh. "My friends teased me, asking me why I got a cockroach tattooed on my body."

After going to Saipan to get his low-quality tattoos covered, he came back to Korea intent on doing tattoos the right way. Self-taught, Mir first practiced on friends. Then, as his skills improved and he became more well-known, he began to travel across Korea to tattoo gangsters. In 2000 he opened up his own studio. His timing was prescient as the demand for tattoos exploded just six years later. Today, Mir's client list includes musicians, club owners, singers, actors, and UFC and F1 fighters.

▲ A tattooist's tools of the trade. Photo by Douglas MacDonald

After 90 minutes, Mir's work is done and it's not at all what I expected. The tattoo looks beautiful and the woman is clearly pleased. Tattoos in Korea have long been considered a mark of violence, gang membership, or defiance of mainstream culture. However, in recent years tattoos have been embraced as works of art and fashion statements.

20 percent of tattoo artists in Korea are now women and their "new-school" style, punctuated by bright colors and smaller, cuter designs, is at the forefront of a break from the "old-school" of dragons, skulls, and sinister messages. Mir embraces the change which gives him a chance to flex his artistic muscle.

What does the future hold for Mir? "I'd like to go abroad and get a tattoo from a famous artist like French tattooist Filip Leu," he mused. In the meantime, Mir will continue to refine his craft, solidifying his place as one of the top tattoo artists in Korea.

▲ No longer a mark of gang membership, 70 percent of Mir's customers are now female. Photo by Douglas MacDonald

Mir will be on the island until mid-April before returning later in the year. A total of seven artists rotate at Tattooist, all of whom are respected across Korea. Call Simon Han at 010-5306-2444 for an appointment or contact online at facebook.com/tattooismjeju or simonhan0307@hotmail.com

More of MacDonald’s photography can be found here.

▲ Mir relaxes on the balcony. Photo by Douglas MacDonald
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
All materials on this site are protected under the Korean Copyright Law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published without the prior consent of Jeju Weekly.
폰트키우기 폰트줄이기 프린트하기 메일보내기 신고하기
페이스북 트위터
60 Second Travel
Jeju-Asia's No.1 for Cruise

Jeju Weekly

Mail to editor@jejuweekly.com  |  Phone: +82-64-724-7776 Fax: +82-64-724-7796
#505 jeju Venture Maru Bldg,217 Jungangro(Ido-2 dong), Jeju-si, Korea, 690-827
Registration Number: Jeju Da 01093  |  Date of Registration: November 20, 2008  |  Publisher: Hee Tak Ko  | Youth policy: Hee Tak Ko
Copyright 2009 All materials on this site are protected under the Korean Copyright Law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published
without the prior consent of jeju weekly.com.

ND소프트