Hojung Lee

What was happening in your life when you decided to get your first tattoo?

I was in a relationship back then for a year or a bit more. At that time I came back from UK to Korea to prepare for my transfer to another uni. Basically doing portfolio again. I was lost in both my life and work. I don’t know why but felt really lost with no answer or no solution. Then I met a really good friend and his sister was a tattoo artist just starting her career. One day she showed me a drawing of a cute naked girl and in that second I knew I must get it.

How did you feel after you got the tattoo?

I felt like a very lost part is finally getting together. I didn’t cry but felt some feeling like crying - in a good way. I was not able to cry since I was 17. This was some sort of breakthrough. I sat on a bench and called my partner and I broke up with him. I felt so good. Like finally became free from what I was suffering of.

Do you feel differently about your body or a particular part of your body after having it tattooed?

Before getting tattoos the only reason I was not getting one was because I wanted a body like a marble sculpture. Very white and nothing. Maybe I was fantasising my body in a weird way. After getting tattoos I feel like I am less objectifying myself in a destructive way. I love my body more with tattoos - all of them were in my charge when I got them and this makes me feel good in some way. I love all my tattoos and in some way all of them have changed my life in positive way and this makes me feel less objectified.

But I don’t think I am free from my body being objectified - some people will categorise my body because of the tattoos. But at least people don’t look at me as an ‘approachable young naive Asian woman’s body’ so in some way I feel good. But on the other side I think the fact that I have to consider all this aspect is annoying. Nothing inside me has changed, but because I got tattoos sometimes people look at me as more genuine version of me. All these thoughts are in my mind whenever I see myself. I feel like all these questions I do to myself leads me to think more of how my body is consumed or understood politically.

What do cherries symbolise for you?

Cherry used to be my young baby name. My mom had a bunch of cherries when she had me. It is way too obvious but I like what cherry means in sexual way and wanted to twist it with the virginity that name had. And I love having cherries too. Like deep red ones.

How do you feel about the fact that your tattoos are a permanent part of you?

That is what I love about them: I feel like I have the perfect life companion with me. I feel less lonely and like I’m empowering myself more. I can’t wait to see how every single one will look like in my life. I don’t get how people think and worry of tattoos being permanent. Aren’t they worrying that the permanency of work, career, love or family will break? Why do they worry about the permanency of something as beautiful as a tattoo?

Do people respond differently to your tattoos when you're in South Korea compared to when you're in the UK?

It is always different in different cultures, I guess. Like in the UK some weird people just randomly come by and speak about my tattoos as a way of flirting. In Korea, I don’t know why, but people don’t care about me compared to when I had no tattoo. Like they consider me as a weird crazy lady who they must not care of or look at. But in case of Japan, where I travel a lot, it gives me different response compared to any other place. They take tattoos really seriously, they keep giving me weird constant glance, and worry of having too many tattoos as a woman. People in Japan constantly asked me if I could get work with tattoos, which is interesting.

Is there anything you've discovered about yourself through the process of getting tattoos?

First thing was I don’t like pain! And because sometimes like very fine needles give me funny tickles I can only stand getting one tattoo. Whenever I get a new one, my life stories float and remain - I love how that process goes.

When you look at your tattoo how does it make you feel?

I feel like some parts are empty, but am so happy of how I look with tattoos. I feel like some of them has character, but some are not yet. So whenever I look at them I just want to get a new one.

When you're getting tattooed or right beforehand, do you have any methods for dealing with the pain or preparing for the experience?

The only way is watching Netflix, painful movies, fashion shoots, Instagram and listening to music. Or sometimes sleeping during the process. Most of mine are big ones so took more than three hours. And also the best way is doing it without pausing because the pain gets even worse.

How would you describe your tattoos in three words?

Love, lovers, cherry.

And what aspects of your personality are reflected in your tattoos?

My lovely part, kinky, smart and dark part. Power, beauty of strength, and love is the only part I see through my body and tattoos.

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