This weekend saw the return of the Ink Bomb 2012 International Tattoo Convention to Seoul. A collection of tattooists from all over the world gathered at Platoon, including artists from Japan, America and the UK, as well as those on their home turf in Korea.

Walking into Platoon, there was a series of booths where the various artists were at work, with ample space to promote themselves and their talents. Live tattooing was happening all over the place, and the option was there to get inked right there on the spot should the right design jump out at you. Some people knew what they wanted already and had emailed ahead, but others just came, got a tattoo, and left.

Unfortunately, since tattooing without a medical license is illegal in Korea, and since it appears that most tattooists at the convention don’t possess one, the event was shut down by the police on all three days, failing to open on Sunday at all. Apparently the authorities are clamping down on tattooing in Korea, which meant that people with half-finished tattoos had to wait around for a couple of hours before illicitly getting them completed in nearby hotel rooms.

It seems a little obtuse to hold such a large event and bring international artists to perform live body art in a country where tattooing is not only taboo, but technically illegal. This should have been an event in which people with a shared interest that isn’t largely accepted by mainstream society could come together and celebrate an unorthodox artistry. Perhaps next year the organizers should focus on displaying tattoo designs and celebrating the artwork behind tattooing instead of risking legal action. What we saw of the convention was pretty cool and at least that way organizers can work within the law to build up a positive reputation in Korea for the misunderstood and widely derided subculture of body art.

Did you go to the convention? What did you think?