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chelsea votel

by Jorge Gonzalez / August 19 2015

An insider from the Korean tattoo world shares her story.

T he 80’s were without doubt a magical time, we need to face the harsh reality that no matter the reboots or reunions Alf, The Thundercats and Hair Metal are not coming back. While we were enjoying the decadent pleasures the 80’s provided nonstop for us, South Korea was living a different story. Democracy was restored and the country was increasing its shift towards high-tech and computer industry. But the Korean gangs or Kkangpae, that might not be as well-known as their not so friendly neighbors the Yakuza, still terrorized people. Media outlets seemed to be fascinated by their tattoos and people started to associate tattoos with crime, such a cliché. Back to the not so magical present day tattoos are still victims of misconception, if you want to be a tattoo artist you better pick up a stethoscope because tattoos can only be done by licensed doctors in South Korea.

Chelsea Votel aka Yo Pickles is one of the most prominent names in the South Korean tattoo subculture. If you want a tattoo but you can’t speak Korean then you surely have heard of her. Chelsea is the creator of Inked Korea, a page with over five thousand members that connects foreigners with the amazing and persecuted Korean tattoo artists. It all started for the Floridian when she and her former boyfriend ventured to Korea 5 years ago. Their relationship ended soon after, and Chelsea found herself in need of some soul searching.


I went to Thailand in 2012 after a long and stressful breakup. I traveled for one month. It was a time to just get away and grounded. It was a really amazing trip. Within the first few days I started feeling 100% better! A new woman! There is something about Thailand that’s really magical! I got my bamboo tattoo done in Thailand. It’s a Thai blessing down my spine. I felt like it was a great tattoo for new beginnings and to bless my future. I also got “random journey” in Thai on my foot. My life so far has been extremely random and I’m loving every second of it.”

- Chelsea Votel

With a new vision of the world and a beautiful Yantra tattoo, Chelsea returned to Korea. Her passion for ink led her to the mysterious doors of the Korean underground tattoo culture. After knocking on those doors for a long time they were finally opened to her, she was invited to an underground tattoo convention and a new world was presented to her. Soon she was helping all of her friends get inked, she became the “it” girl of tattoos. Soon thereafter, Inked Korea was born. 

As years passed more stories were transferred to Chelsea’s skin in the beautiful and permanent fashion of tattoos. She continues her passion for tattoos by hosting a broadcast show, Korea- TattooTalk on Perisocope and Hangw/. The show gives advice and information about tattoos in Korea to her more than 50,000 followers. If you want to find out more about Chelsea check her out  on Periscope @autumnbythesea and Hangw/ @yopickles you can also follow her on Instagram @eatmorepickles.

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