Tattoos are not popular in Korea, partly because they’re associated with gangsters and partly because there just isn’t any cultural history of them. Foreigners who come here with tattoos often say they may draw some odd looks or resort to covering them up somehow. The Chosun Ilbo, however, reports here about one foreigner who shouldn’t have any trouble having his tat accepted.
In America tattoos are popular. Men and women, young and old, people want to write things on their bodies. There are so many kinds of tattoos it boggles the imagination.
A few years ago tattoos in Chinese were in vogue. There were plenty of Americans who got tattoos in Chinese without even knowing their meaning. For example there was even a store employee who had the phrase “hard times” (不景氣) embossed on his arm.
But one Major League athlete is being talked about for having gotten a tattoo on his throat — in Korean.
It’s Milwaukee Brewers star hitter Prince Fielder. Fielder proudly got a tattoo on his neck of the Korean meaning of his name ‘Prince’. When Fielder steps into the batter’s box the word 왕자 is clearly visible on the left side of his neck. Korean fans who watch him on TV wondered about it.
According to Fielder the story of the tattoo is like this.
About 2 or 3 years ago he went into a market in Florida and talked with a Korean working there as a clerk, and learned that his name means 왕자 in Korean. He took a paper with 왕자 written on it and went straight to a tattoo parlor.
Though he doesn’t have any special connection to Korea, Fielder lives with Korean daily and says “I used to know how to pronounce it but now I forgot.”
In the current powerful season of the Milwaukee Brewers Fielder is hitting .277 with 18 home runs and 34 RBI. Fielder is the son of former Detroit Tigers slugger Cecil Fielder.
For the record, 왕자 is pronounced wangja, with two long a’s. For more stories of people who don’t understand their tattoos, head over to Hanzi Smatter.
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