North Korea Tattoo Laws in 2023 (Legal or Illegal?)

Whatever you say about North Korea, you can’t deny that the country is fascinating. From its unique political system to its enigmatic leader, there’s no shortage of things to learn about North Korea.

It just seems like a different planet compared to the rest of the world.

While there are probably not many Westerners that would want to live in North Korea, many find the place extremely intriguing. Despite the country’s infamous reputation, it’s undeniable that North Korea is one of the most interesting places on earth and the constantly-growing number of tourists visiting the country is proof of that.

Since tattoos are so mainstream nowadays, many people forget that they are still banned in some countries. Is North Korea one of the countries where tattoos are not allowed?

In today’s article on the subject of tattoo laws in North Korea, we dive deep into the topic and find out everything there is to know.

If you’re covered in ink or, even more courageously, want to get a tattoo while in North Korea, read on to find out what you need to know about the country’s stance on tattoos.

North Korea Tattoo Laws & Regulations

Like its neighbors South Korea and Japan, the country has a strong stance on tattoos.

So, are tattoos acceptable in North Korea?

The North Korean government believes that tattoos are a symbol of Western culture and they want to keep their citizens as isolated from that culture as possible. Tattoos are definitely not as socially acceptable as they are in most Western countries and you’ll definitely stand out if you have any visible ink.

But is it legal to get tattooed in North Korea?

Despite all of the above, there’s no official ruling that prohibits anyone from getting a tattoo – even though it’s pretty much impossible to find a tattoo parlor across the country.

As you probably know, North Korea is a socialist state and, as such, the government has a huge say in what its citizens can and cannot do, and that includes the businesses that are allowed to operate in the country.

So, while it’s technically not illegal to get a tattoo in North Korea, it’s definitely not something that’s easy to do. The only places in which it’s possible to get inked are military institutions and these are mostly reserved for people serving in the armed forces, such as the KPA, Air Force, or Navy.

That means that most North Koreans are tattoo-free. Those who carry some body art, a vast majority of who are men, are most of the time either serving or ex-military personnel.

It’s not unusual for the small portion of inked North Koreans to be praising Kim or his family in their tattoos. In fact, it’s pretty much the only type of tattoo that you’ll see in the country.

Examples of such tattoos, translated into English, are as follows:

  • “Guard the Great Leader to our death”
  • “We are the General’s offspring”
  • “Defence of the Motherland”

Hyun Namhyuk, a North Korean who strongly disagreed with the regime and escaped to South Korea, says: “All the tattoos in my country need to carry some form of praise for Kim and his relatives. Or teaching of the state. They simply must have a political purpose in them”.

Are there age restrictions for tattoos in North Korea?

Unlike most tattoo laws in the world, those in North Korea don’t specify the minimum age requirement. Maybe it’s simply because the tattoo laws in North Korea are practically non-existent?

Can a tourist visit North Korea with tattoos?

Yes, it is possible for a tourist to visit North Korea with tattoos. However, we would not recommend it as you will definitely stand out from the rest of the crowd and may even attract unwanted attention from the authorities.

If you do decide to go ahead with it, make sure to cover up your tattoos as much as possible, especially if they are visible. Wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants is a good way to do that.

If you’re sporting any tattoos praising the countries whose actions go against North Korea, such as the USA or Japan, we recommend covering those up completely as they are likely to cause offense and a possible punishment – you want to avoid that.

Tattoo Laws in North Korea: Conclusion

As you can see, there are no specific tattoo laws in North Korea. However, that doesn’t mean that getting inked is easy or even possible in the country.

If you’re dead set on getting a tattoo while in North Korea, your best bet is to try and find a military institution that does them. But be warned – you may not be welcomed with open arms.

Otherwise, we recommend avoiding tattoos altogether or at least keeping them hidden while in North Korea.