Human rights watchdog calls for legalization of tattooing by non-medical workers

SEOUL-- The National Human Rights Commission recommended Wednesday that the National Assembly swiftly handle legislative bills allowing non-medical workers to perform tattoo services.

The current law criminalizing tattooing by non-medical practitioners falls far short of the reality where most tattoos are being provided by those who are not medical doctors, the rights watchdog said in its opinion delivered to the National Assembly speaker.

Tattooing is currently governed by the Medical Service Act that only allows those with a medical license to provide tattoo services.

Even a veteran tattooist may face fines of up to 10 million won (US$8,047), or even jail time, for providing tattoo services. This dates back to a 1992 Supreme Court ruling that defined tattooing as a medical service.

"The assembly needs to swiftly review related legislative bills that call for qualifying non-medical tattooists while setting up strict management and supervision systems so as not to unjustly violate tattooists' freedom to choose a vocation as well as tattoo takers' freedom to express themselves," the commission noted.

It also said given the actual level of danger involved in providing tattoos, the current exclusive qualification given to those with a medical license cannot be justified.

Apart from usual medical services, tattooing requires unique expertise and having a medical license does not guarantee such expertise, it added.

Currently, several bills on qualifying tattooists are pending at the assembly's health committee, mostly proposed on the grounds that tattoos are generally sought for artistic or cosmetic purposes, not medical ones.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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