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Many idols want to exude the persona of toughness associated with hip hop music that comes with years of growing up in the streets.
However, the majority of these idols have never experienced the same situations.
Therefore, the 'hip-hop' In the instances of permanent ink, many tattoos look nice, but many do not.
Either way, I can only think that kpop's (and perhaps Korea's) emphasis on youth and physical beauty is still reflected in tattoos however taboo they may seem.
Idols' obsessions with outer appearance makes them stay slimmer quite a bit longer than most people.
This means that their tattoos, sometimes in unfortunate locations, stay unobstructed and, well, for a lack of a better word, appealing for longer.
This, combined with the past precedence of the pop scene in Korea becoming more and more Westernized, to me makes tattoos a logical extension of the youthful, ideal image.
So idols' acceptance of them reflects a greater mainstream societal transformation, a liberalization of Korea's image-- take the greater acceptance of homosexuality in kdramas (e.g. The youth-centered kpop market has forced entertainment groups to find the next hip thing.This market is dominated by young people who are easily tired of repetition and are constantly searching for more unique fashion, more Western attitudes and different music styles.One of the main differences between the idol group trend/Korea as a whole and more 'rebellious' stars is the permanence of the ink. As more and more idol groups are veering away from the pop path, they are embracing hip-hop, r&b, and rap (just take a look at pre-2011 Big Bang, B. P., Block B, Evo L, EXID, Spica, Infinite H, etc.).While some idols' comeback images feature fake tattoos, which often seem more trashy than hardcore (see the above photos), I think more credible rap/ hip-hop artists like Dok2, Illionare, Outsider, etc. This venture into less mainstream and more 'urban' music has trickled into their lives, and so many get ink as a representation of their growing ties to the hip-hop genre.
Instead, they are imitating the perceived image from (mainly Western) rap or hip-hop.
Many idols have quoted Jay-Z, Micheal Jackson, Omarion, Usher, B2K, and more as their favorite singers.