Showing tattoos in public is taboo in South Korea where tattoos are seen as gangster symbols. Also, the deeply rooted Confucian culture discouraged people from altering the bodies they received from their parents.
The art form has gradually gained mainstream attention in this conservative country as softer, more delicate designs began appearing on the scene.
A Korean-language search for “sentimental design” brings up a number of tattoo images on social media, including nearly 800,000 on Instagram.
Kim Jin-hwan, a 31-year-old tattoo artist, says 80 percent of customers at his Seoul tattoo parlor are foreigners who want Korean-style sentimental tattoos.
Kim said tattoos based on family photos are popular among customers. Some even ask for a permanent reminder on their skin to honor a beloved pet.
Korea is one of the few countries that ban tattoo services unless they are carried out by medical practitioners.